Blinded Ryter - Many people are most likely wondering where the Hell I have been, what I have been doing, and most importantly, why it took me so damned long to write this chapter. I cannot provide an answer, because I honestly don't know what to say. I am not going to explain my current condition, and I apologize for the note before this chapter. I took it off, the one about the divorce, and my falling apart, but I have destroyed the "me" back then entirely, and have created myself into someone new, and this time, without the help of any sharp objects (both in the destruction and recreation parts). If, for some odd and peculiar reason, you are interested and/or curious about my disappearance, message me, and I'll see what questions I can answer.

On a lighter note, I have been c-sober for 13 months, ridiculously excited for the Clone Wars and X-Files movie, and got red glasses 8D I am eager to hear how everyone else has been doing as well. I will say that I enjoy listening to you guys, and better yet, simply talking about everything and nothing (:

This chapter may not be my best, but I will work harder for the future. Thank-you for reading, and especially for my wonderful reviewers whose comments make my day brighter.


Chapter 06 - 'Dismantle.Repair.'

Fragmented rays of sunlight trickled through the slight open space between the gauzy curtains that trembled beneath the breeze of the air vent above. With passing time, the pale dawn light grew into warm shafts that landed upon Yuugi's face, and irritated the boy to the point where he began to stir. Yuugi made an incoherent sound in the back of his throat as he turned away from the light, and attempted to grasp at the last wisps of slumber. Yuugi was beginning to succeed by surrendering to the entrails of sleep, but the presence of something odd evoked wake.

It was...warmth.

There was an alien and foreign, yet pleasant sensation of something warm enveloping Yuugi's body. Soft yet firm, it was most defintely not the bedsheets. Vaguely curious and confused, Yuugi slowly lifted his heavy lids, and stared with bleary eyes at the wall. Groaning and muttering some more, Yuugi turned slowly onto his other side to see Atem sleeping besides him, and his frame being embraced by the Yami's arms. It took Yuugi a moment to comprehend, calculate, and compute all of this within his mind as the last specks of daze left him. When Yuugi was fully conscious, he was also fully alarmed and surprised. He squeaked as his eyes went wide and his face burned hot, but calmed himself down when he reminded himself not to disturb Atem from his slumber. And yet, Yuugi's mind was racing frantically hysteria and panic.

Why was Atem here? What happened? Didn't Atem hate him? Was this a dream? Or were they both dead somehowtheybothendedupintheafterlifetogether andandandand-

The thoughts came to an abrupt halt when Yuugi's glimpsed at his forearm, and saw the recent cuts. Though the red marks were like morbid trophies, they provided the boy with a trigger to recall the events of the previous night.

The victory. The reconconilation. The forgiveness. The promise.

Yuugi choked at first, then inhaled deep and let out a sigh of disbelief and relief.

Did all of that...really happen?

And even if it did, what was to come of the future?

Violet eyes softening with a mixture of emotions, Yuugi drew closer to Atem as he took part in his favorite, but most dangerous past time: thinking. Musing. Pondering.

There was doubt and uncertainty like cold icy fingers that hovered above the small flame of hope flickering within his heart, threatening to beckon a harsh gust of wind that would put out the fire. Yuugi wanted to stop drawing his own blood, but could he actually do it? Was he capable of such a thing? What if Yuugi took on a different addiction instead? Wouldn't that be even worse, and proof that he was damned to no end?

Even if Yuugi were to become immune to all addictions, that didn't necessarily mean life would revert back to the way it was. Grandfather, his friends, his peers...they would still view him as a self-mutilator even if he dropped the act forever. No matter how many good deeds someone did, the bad ones always outweighed the good. The name Yuugi Motou would forever be blemished by the exposure of this scarlet practice.

Yuugi absently ran his fingers down his pale forearm where several cuts stood out with great contrast against his flesh. The lurid vermilion against the pasty white, it was as if a deranged artist came to an obsession with crude, yet precise strokes that left the canvas distorted and disturbing. As his fingertips ran over the cuts, there was no pain anymore, unless he purposely dug his nail into one of them (which he did do out of sub-conscious habit). Yuugi marveled morbidly at how the vertical cuts did not result in his death. Maybe next time, he really would die if he pressed the blade just a bit deeper-

No.

No, no, no.

There was going to be no next time. Ever.

Or so, he hoped.

Yuugi pressed his lips tightly and pulled the sleeve of his shirt over his forearm in shame as he closed his eyes tightly.

What if what he was really feeling was naivety and foolishness? What if this was nothing more than false hope?

What if he just couldn't do this?

The Hikari drew in a shaky breath that caused his fragile and delicate frame to tremble. This was why thinking was a dangerous past time; it was his demons' best weapons, and they were merciless in poisoning his thoughts, manipulating his feelings, and pushing him farther and farther to the edge. In spite of the fact that Yuugi finally took a stand against the demons for the first time in his life last night, he knew that they were still residing within the chambers of his heart. Lurking in the shadows, waiting for the right chance to go in for another kill, another cut...

The boy inhaled sharply as his blood ran cold, and his mind began to spin out of control.

Just one. Just one. One cut, and that would be enough.

The sense of desperation and need was beyond comprehensible and damn straight pathetic as Yuugi curled into a ball. In a futile attempt, Yuugi struggled to restrain himself. There was another mortal combat taking place within his heart, the demons versus him, and Yuugi was losing.

It was a battle to be lost. He couldn't do this. He knew the facts: he was a cutter, woud live as a cutter, and would die as a cutter. He just would never stop-

Yuugi's thoughts faltered and ceased when he felt the arms around his body tighten. He had forgotten entirely about the person he was being held by as he pondered darkly. The boy was so erratic with his thoughts earlier that it was by no doubt he left the mind-link open for Atem to access at will. Yuugi's body went rigid, his breath hitched, and his eyes fluttered open only to grow wide with anxiety and waver in fear. Yuugi didn't dare look at his Yami now. He knew what would be on the ex-Pharaoh's face: disappointment, anger, disgust, shame, or a mixture of all and some more. The very same expression everyone's been giving Yuugi for the past few weeks.

Yuugi emitted a pitiful strangled noise as he began pulling away from Atem, whose touch now burned.

But instead of letting go, Atem only drew Yuugi in closer, and stroked his head. Yuugi blinked in startlement, then hesitated for a moment before tilting his head up to glance at Atem's face.

There was none of the emotions Yuugi expected, but everything he never imagined: affection, love, concern, and anguish.

"Don't give up, Aibou," Atem murmured, crimson eyes reflecting emotions like that of Yuugi's. "You just found the first piece of yourself yesterday, and we just need to find the rest."

"We...?" Yuugi echoed in a barely audible voice.

"I will always be with you," Atem explained softly with a smile that graced his lips beautifully. "I will help you find the pieces and put them back together."

"Like...a puzzle?" Yuugi inquiered like a child.

Atem couldn't help but smile fondly at the genuine innocence and purity portrayed upon his Hikari.

"Yes, like a puzzle," Atem replied as he took Yuugi's face in his hands. "And Aibou, you're so good at puzzles. I know you will do well."

When Atem's last word was spoken, he captured Yuugi's lips in a chaste kiss. When the kiss was broken, Yuugi was left breathless and speechless, in spite of the fact that the kiss was virgin and innocent as a kiss could get. He took a moment to regain himself, but the faint scarlet blush remained on his face, in which Atem thought was adorable. The after thought quickly vanished when Atem saw Yuugi's eyes begin to water before he quickly diverted his gaze elsewhere, and inched away slightly.

"But..." Yuugi choked out as he sub-consciously rubbed his arm, "I'm not broken; there are no pieces. I...they..." Yuugi paused as he let out a frustrated exhale of breath. "There's...nothing left of me, but ashes."

"And yet, there are still embers, and from those embers, a fire still burns," Atem pointed out softly.

Yuugi closed his eyes tightly as he struggled to hold the tears in. Unfortunately, his tears were connected to the ducts of his aching heart. He cried quietly, and throughout it all, he felt like he was being cleansed.

After a series of soft murmurings, a few more chaste kissing, and barely audible sweet whisperings, the two boys gave back into sleep graciously. Yuugi slept with more peace this time, and when he woke up for the second time that day, he felt like he could breathe again. It was sad how people took breathing for granted, was what he thought when he inhaled deeply, letting the air fill his lungs, expand his chest, then leave his body. Had he ever felt this light before?

Yuugi sat upright, and turned his head to where the window was now allowing a strong and golden ray of sunlight to shine through. Yuugi raised one outstretched hand at the light, and closed his fist.

Yuugi withdrew his gently clenched fist, and imagined a cloud of faint yellow-tinted light within the encasement of his fingers that left them feeling warm. The light was there, right before his eyes, and now in his own hand. He then glanced at Atem, who was still sleeping so peacefully. Yuugi used his free hand to set it over Atem's, then brought his closed fist to his chest. With the light within his reach, and an angel by his side, the flame flickering inside of his heart grew only fiercer.

-x-

Yuugi and Atem both agreed with logic that attending school today would be quite unreasonable, since it was already eleven. There would only be an hour or so of school left this Saturday morning. (A/N: Schools in E Asia also go to school on Saturdays, and usually get out early).They decided upon staying home, since Yuugi was still hesitant and felt uneasy about the idea of going out into the public, into the world. He wasn't too favorable of being out in the open and vulnerable to wry glances or verbal attacks. Even if neither of those things were to happen, Yuugi wanted to spend some time readjusting to the world, and leaving behind his world.

Things were still a tad bit awkward between the two for the first few minutes, but they grew comfortable around each other again after Atem caused the waffle iron to short circuit, and the plug in the wall to send sparks flying like fireworks. Yuugi couldn't stop laughing, especially at Atem who was struggling to keep his dignity, and refrain the kitchen from setting on fire at the same time. Yuugi felt so good to feel his insides hurt, and recognize the light-hearted sound as his own. The boy felt only better when Atem smiled at him in defeat and fondness.

Yuugi learned how to smile again. Laugh again. Love again. He learned how to be human again, and though some fragments were still missing, he could easily reassure himself now that with time, he would soon be "okay".

Sometime in the afternoon, the two boys were sitting in the living room taking part in something they had not done for too long: Duel Monsters. Black Luster Solider, the Dark Magician, even Kuriboh...faces that left both Atem and Yuugi with a sense of nostalgia. As they played their cards, they recalled the days of adventurous perils and epic quests. Though they laughed good-naturedly and grinned at some of the highlights of the past, Yuugi felt a twinge of sadness that receded through his chest. Those days reminded him of his friends that supported him back then, but not now...

As if on cue, the phone rang. Offering to answer the call, Atem set his hand of cards face down on the table, and walked over to the phone. He picked up the wireless phone and answered it. Yuugi leaned back in his chair, half of his mind strategizing upon his next move, the other half listening to the conversation.

"...he's fine," said Atem with a voice hinted with subdued anger and exasperation. "Do you want to talk with him?...Alright then...Bye."

Yuugi stared at Atem with a raised eyebrow as the Yami made his way back to his seat.

"Who was it?" Yuugi asked.

"Jou," Atem answered in a neutral tone.

Yuugi's eyebrows raised in genuine surprise, then knitted together into a bitter scowl. He suddenly found more interest in the carpet, as if he could burn a hole through the fibers.

"And for what reason?" Yuugi asked, his voice a bit more tense than before.

"Apparently, everyone was worried about you," said Atem.

"Everyone as in...?"

"Jou. Honda. Tea. Ryou."

Yuugi set his own hand of cards down, and bit the inside of his cheek. The light mood was suddenly gone when reality knocked on their door again, reminding the two what the world beyond their own walls were like right now. Broken friendships, devastating betrayal, things they couldn't turn a blind eye to for too long.

"They were...worried...about...me," Yuugi sounded out slowly as if his brain could not compute the words, but his heart could fully feel the flames of subdued anger and outrage.

Atem gave a nod.

"They thought that you-"

"Killed myself?" Yuugi suggested flatly. "What, were they disappointed?"

Atem stared at Yuugi sharply with his arms folded across his chest.

"No, I believe that they were all quite very upset. Very, very upset," the Yami answered as he recalled finding Yuugi almost dead last night. "Jou sounded as if he had been crying."

Yuugi couldn't help but feel shame and guilt under Atem's piercing gaze that only spoke the truth. He had every right to feel strong disdain towards his (ex-?) friends, but he also knew it was wrong of him to reject those who genuinely felt concern for him. The boy's shoulder sagged, as if the weight of the world was being doubled. But why now? he wondered. Why were they trying to see if he was alright now? Did he have to go to such an extreme to get everyone's attention? What if he really did die? What then?

Atem's eyes softened as his heart ached at the sight of Yuugi beginning to break down. Atem stood from his chair, and approached Yuugi. Without warning, he gathered Yuugi into his arms, and carried him to the couch. Yuugi let out another yelp of surprise as Atem positioned his Hikari so that Yuugi was sitting on his lap, his arms around Yuugi's waist.

"This has to be theworst time for me to be blushing like this," Yuugi said mostly to himself as he leaned against Atem.

Atem laughed quietly.

"You look quite adorable though," the Yami remarked.

Embarassed, Yuugi didn't meet Atem's amused eyes. He paused for a moment as he let the burning warmth of his face die down, so that he could think clearly once more.

"How come people only cry when it's too late?" Yuugi asked as he drew random shapes absently on Atem's chest.

Atem rested his chin on Yuugi's shoulder, and closed his eyes slightly.

"In most cases, I suppose it's like that," Atem began to say. "But...in others, you don't see people crying openly until 'it's too late', but trust me, they've cried before."

"So, you're saying that our...friends actually gave a damn about me up until now?" Yuugi said with the least amount of bitterness he could possibly allow to escape.

"They have always cared, like I did, but didn't know what to do, especially when they didn't know what to do with themselves," Atem replied.

Yuugi scowled slightly in confusion, then looked up at Atem.

"What do you mean?"

Atem heaved a heavy sigh as he ran one hand through his hair, an obvious sign of distress.

"I believe..." he said slowly, "that everyone has their own demon."

Yuugi's throat went dry. He didn't need to ask Atem what the metaphor meant; he knew the answer himself all too well.

"...why was I so blind?" Yuugi asked to no one in particular.

Atem tilted his head slightly as his crimson eyes dimmed with dark insight. "From what I've observed these past Ra-knows how many years, all human beings put on a facade, and create a faux reality. Soon, the faux becomes reality, and the reality becomes faux. There is no one that walks around completely exposed to the core where they are vulnerable and raw, but in one time or another, humans lose clarity of many truths, such as agony, pain, and misery. How could someone recognize suffering if they deny their own? How could they recognize pain if they only allow themselves to experience artificial emotions?" Atem paused as he searched his mind for a quote. "If I remember correctly from one movie, 'Ignorance is bliss'(1)."

Yuugi stared at his arms, and though they were covered by the sleeves of his hoodie, he knew exactly how many scars there were, what they looked like, and how they marred his flesh. How long did it take for him to realize he was...destroying himself?

Yuugi closed his eyes for a brief moment as he accepted his own pain, and then suddenly...and yet as if it was normal, natural, Yuugi felt more pain. It was not only his, but everyone and everything else's. The sheer anguish, the utter misery, the devastating grief...

Yuugi choked...inhaled, exhaled, then opened his eyes.

"I have to help them," he declared, and continued speaking before Atem could even respond. "They betrayed me, hurt me, abandoned me, but that doesn't matter. Maybe I'm naive and foolish, but I...I know what it's like to suffer, and now, I cannot stand the thought of letting anyone's suffering go on. Maybe the guys aren't hurting at all, but if they are, I intend on finding out, and helping them. Saving them..." Yuugi drew in a shaky breath. "And if I cannot do any of those things, I will at least make sure they do not suffer alone."

Firm and strong words that were spoken quietly faded away into non-existence, thus allowing silence to reign king. The aching waves of pain continued to crash into Yuugi like the waves of tsunamis, but instead of blocking the pain out and facing it with ignorance, he allowed it to fully flow through him. He would no longer turn away, but endure it instead.

Yuugi lowered his eyes to his hand when Atem grasped it, and entwined their fingers together.

"I honestly do not know what to say, Aibou," said Atem.

"It's okay..." Yuugi mumbled with a small smile. "I can feel it...you're my other half, after all."

"Then you should already know that I could not love you, admire you, and be proud of you any more than I already am."

Yuugi turned his head, and smiled before saying a sweet thank-you.

They leaned in towards each other, closing their eyes, and just as their lips were almost brushing over the others, the bells on the front door of the game shop chimed and rang. They both pulled apart and stared at each other with wide eyes.

The front door was locked.

It was locked ever since Grandfather left.

His feet were ahead of his mind as Yuugi scrambled out of the room, and ran down the hall that led to the main game shop. It was a short distance, but when Yuugi arrived at his destination, hiss heart was beating in overdrive at the sight of the familiar back of Solomon who was locking the door. Solomon had not changed the slightest from his physical appearance, and Yuugi also feared that Solomon's heart had not changed as well. Were sorrow and shame still dwelling inside of the man's heart, emotions Yuugi and his self-mutilation practice evoked?

He was so scared.
So damn scared.

Of rejection, of anger, of disappointment.

Yuugi never thought Solomon would come back. He came back home, but would he come back to his grandson?

Breathing heavily, Yuugi suddenly went rigid with fear, hesitation, and dread. The awful dread was the worse of all them, thickening like lead in the pit of his churning guts, and growing heavier by each second. The dread was like a cinder block, a heavy weight that Yuugi knew was going to fall on his feet, but had yet to reach the ground. The anticipation only heightened the boy's emotions to a near hyperventilating state. He swallowed hard as he tried to relax his breathing, and quell the deafening thudding of his heart in his ears.

After a moment, Solomon shoved the ring of keys back into his pocket, then turned around to face Yuugi...and smile at him.

"I'm sorry that it took me this long, Yuugi, my boy, to come home, but most of all, I am sorry for how I treated you..."

The words faded away into a murmur Yuugi didn't pay attention to as he dashed forward, and nearly tackled his grandfather to the ground with a hug. Solomon staggered back at the sudden weight, but quickly gained footing, and embraced his grandson. Yuugi clung onto Solomon's shirt as he sobbed into his chest. From afar, Atem watched with a subtle smile, and through the mind-link, caught a small glimpse of that small corner of a wall in Yuugi's soul room grow just a little more.

Yuugi sobbed apologies, but Solomon said he was the one to be sorry. He was sorry for the way he reacted, for leaving at the worst time, and...for lying.

This caught Atem's and Yuugi's attention quickly.

Sniffling, Yuugi pulled away from his grandfather, and stared at him in confusion.

"For lying...?" he echoed as Atem walked over to them, and stood besides the shorter boy. "W...what do you mean?"

Solomon's smile did not falter, but it became hinted with rue. He let out a sigh of content as he shoved his hands into his pockets.

"My boy, I am an old man," Solomon began saying in a calm tone. "I have lived for so long...but no one lives forever..."

Solomon's voice trailed off when he saw Yuugi begin to shake his head in denial. Both Atem and Yuugi knew where this conversation was going, but Yuugi was not willing to accept it. He could not.

"Grandfather, stop it," Yuugi cried as he took a step back. "Don't do this...I...stop joking-"

"I did not go to a dig," interrupted Solomon, "I went to a hospital."

Yuugi stopped breathing, but he could not refrain from uttering one question, and he did so in a voice that was unnaturally high, and laced with incredulity and sheer anguish.

"...why?"

"Lately, I've been having heart pains, and I decided to get it checked. They took some tests, and though there was really nothing wrong at first, they told me to come again two weeks later. I went, and it seems to be that my heart is beginning to give out, so I stayed there for some treatment-"

"So, you're going to be fine, right?" Yuugi exclaimed, his eyes growing wide with hope. "You're going to be okay, right?"

Solomon gazed with sad eyes at his grandson, then shook his head.

"They have merely extended my life. I have about four months or less to live."

Time stopped. The world ended. The Armageddon came. The Apocalypse erupted.

All of those things happened in the same precise second for Yuugi Motou when he heard the words that his only last living family member was going to die in four months. That Solomon was going to die period.

All the gears and wheels came to a halt, all the wires frayed and burnt, all the neurons paralyzed. Yuugi's entire mind went under a meltdown he was unaware of himself, but Atem sensed his Aibou's dangerous unstable state. He could also see in the back of his mind, clearly and vividly, the calm blue of the rebuilding walls in Yuugi's soul room begin to chip away bit by bit, but at an alarmingly rapid rate. The darkness exposed by the other non-existent walls began to stir and dance in synch with Yuugi's violent emotions.

/'Aibou,'/Atem called out through their mind-link as he grasped Yuugi's arm. /'Please, calm down --...--...'/

The mind-link was still fully open, but Yuugi could no longer interpret Atem's message, because he was entirely blinded by rage, disbelief, and anguish. He did not respond to Atem's words, nor react to the Yami grabbing his arm. Instead, Yuugi stared at Solomon steadily with darkening violet eyes.

"You're lying," Yuugi stated in a trembling voice. His voice was a whisper at first, but gradually it grew louder as his brows knitted together, and his vision began blurring with tears. "You're lying...you're lying, you're lying!" he screamed in a terribly cracking voice as tears trickled down his face. "How can you do this to me? How can you just...just leave? Like Mom and Dad, why are you going to leave me behind? Why? Why?!"

Yuugi took an abrupt step forward and clutched onto Solomon's shirt as he repeated the single word, the single question over and over again with despair, and continued to do so even when he fell onto his knees.

"Why? Why? WHY?!"

Just when he was going to put his life back on track, just when he discovered that Solomon was no longer upset with him...

Death was the most natural part of living, but it was so difficult to accept, and Yuugi could not even acknowledge it at this point. Throat burning from the screams, and vision still blurred with tears, Yuugi pushed onto his feet abruptly, and ran upstairs to his room. Atem was there with him almost immediately, but not before much of the furniture in the bedroom was destroyed and dismantled. Papers flew everywhere, the desk toppled over, the lamp fell with a dull thud...it was a scene all too familiar as the one Atem witnessed in Yuugi's soul room.

Dodging the path of a chair hurled at the opposite wall, Atem made his way over to Yuugi. With force and with almost brutality, Atem pulled Yuugi into his arms. The roughness was needed, seeing as how being gentle at the moment would only result in Atem being wounded and/or mutilated. Yuugi screamed, yelled, and fought, but Atem only held Yuugi tighter. Soon, Yuugi fell exhausted, and calmed down to weak poundings on Atem's chest, and frustrated mutterings.

Atem was saying something, or maybe he wasn't saying anything at all. Yuugi was losing his touch with reality due to the excruciating pain that distorted all of his senses. Was he still crying? Shouting? Breathing? All rational thought was wiped clean as Yuugi's mind was overwhelmed with the flood of emotions.

Atem gritted his teeth as he braced himself mentally against Yuugi's emotions, which were proving to become a little too much, but fortunately, Yuugi was beginning to calm down. But when Solomon entered the room and into Yuugi's sight, the boys emotions piqued again. Yuugi shook his head once again in denial. He was no longer rash and brutal, but still desperate and grievous.

"I don't want you to die..." Yuugi sobbed, his shoulders heaving, his body shaking. "Don't go, Grandpa...please..."

Atem released Yuugi as he allowed the boy to fall into his grandfather's arms. Sighing inwardly in weariness, Atem quickly wiped his damp eyes, then folded his arms over his chest.

"It will only be good-bye for a while, Yuugi," Solomon said with tears of his own brimming his eyes. "We both know from past experiences that there is an afterlife, and I am sure that we will meet again. When I am on my deathbed, Yuugi, smile for me, even if you are crying, and while I wait for you on the other side, live. Live your life, Yuugi." Solomon paused as he tilted Yuugi's chin up, and stared at him in the eye. "Before, when I heard that you were harming yourself, I did not know what to do, and it was terrible timing to leave for the hospital, but I thought it would be best not to explain why, in fear that you would hurt even more. I am sorry for the lie, but do know that I love you, my grandson, and that I always will."

The tears would not stop and the pain was unbearable, but Yuugi managed a smile, something Solomon longed to see for such a long time.

"I love you, too..." he whispered in shaking gasps, "and...welcome home."

Solomon chuckled quietly.

"It's good to be back."

The embrace was broken as they parted to their separate rooms, but their bond was not, and not even death would sever it. Yuugi was still scared, uncertain, and hurt, but the tears came to a stop when he remembered his grandfather's words.

Maybe he would fall, trip, collaspe, and even break over and over again until his knees were bleeding as he ventured in this journey known as Life. He would cry, he would hurt, he would fear, but he was no longer going to turn away, run away, or fade away.

He wasn't going to die anymore.

He was going to live.

--

Next chapter: Fade to Black

(1) Quote taken from The Matrix.

P.S. All I do is write and write, but writing together with someone else is fun too. If anyone is interested in roleplaying or writing a joint-story together, please message me! - B. Ryter