Title: Everywhen, Everywhere
Series: Part I of Endless Loop.
Summary: On the eve of the Battle City finals, Yami reflects on his newly rediscovered past and what repercussions it will have on his present. When Kaiba and Yami experience a vision of their ancient Egyptian counterparts, what will it mean for their future?
Pairings: Yami x Kaiba, Priest Seto x Pharaoh Atem
Rating: T for language and implied sexual situations between male lovers. No limes or lemons in this one.
Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! does not and never has belonged to me.
A/N: Takes place around episode 97 in season two. Anzu wakes up and discovers that Bakura is missing, so she goes to find Yuugi to help look for him. In the meantime, Bakura and Marik are dueling on the top deck and Kaiba is researching the One Turn Kill ability of Ra. This story starts sometime after the battle between Bakura and Marik is over and everyone but Yami has left the top deck.
Part I: Remembering to Forget
Yami knew that he should go back downstairs to their room and allow his aibou's body to rest before the finals tomorrow, but he still remained alone on the Battle Ship dueling platform. Bakura had vanished into the darkness, Marik had wandered off, and Anzu presumably had finally gone back to bed, but Yami couldn't bring himself to move. It was a rare moment of selfishness, but he didn't want to return to his confines just yet and be trapped inside of his soul room when he had so much weighing on his mind.
True, the same dilemmas plagued him while he was in control of his aibou's body, but at least there was a small illusion of freedom, fleeting as it may have been. Even if it was just for this moment, he could pretend that he was alive…but then again, he had never been very good at lying to himself. His hand clenched tightly around the cold metal chain hanging around his neck, the deadweight that reminded him of his place. Yami allowed himself to feel the frustration over his own situation only because his aibou was in a deep enough sleep to be deaf to such traitorous emotions.
Yami couldn't help but feel disappointed in himself, disappointed that he was allowing his emotions to get beyond his control. Never before had he had any doubts about where he stood, about who he was—he was the embodiment of the Millennium Puzzle, Yuugi's darkness and protector. He had needed nothing else, had not even thought to question it or how he came to be. All that had mattered was his aibou's happiness and safety, which was exactly as it should have been. But it had all changed and now he wasn't so sure about things, something that he didn't like at all.
Relinquishing his grip on the chain as he walked over to the edge of the platform, Yami leaned against the railing and shivered as the cold metal permeated his warmth through his thin jacket. Looking over the edge, all he could see were dark clouds as they passed over them, the faint light of the stars from above shining weakly. He didn't have a watch with him, but judging from the hint of grey on the edge of the horizon, daybreak couldn't be but a few hours away now. Even knowing that, he remained where he stood, resting one foot on the lower rail as he continued staring blankly ahead, absorbed in his thoughts.
Everything had changed that day at the museum, that very instant when he first laid eyes on the tablet that had redefined his entire existence in a single moment. He suddenly became aware that he used to be a person with a history, a man who had ruled as a pharaoh and sacrificed himself for the greater good of his people. In that moment he had been granted a shadow of an identity, had been given something that was both a blessing and a curse. He was a pharaoh with no name, a man with a past that couldn't be recalled, a man who had not stood alone. And he had been troubled ever since, although he did his best to hide it from his aibou.
It's why Yami had been so disturbed by the conversation he and his aibou had earlier when Yuugi couldn't sleep. He was deeply touched that Yuugi wanted to help recover all seven of the Millennium Items in order for Yami to regain what he had lost, but it was still painful for Yami to hear, even more than hearing his aibou trying to stifle his tears afterwards. He understood now that he had sacrificed his life for a purpose and he couldn't ask his aibou to do the same. Even though it was a difference circumstance, a different kind of sacrifice, he wasn't comfortable with it and couldn't accept it. No matter what, it was still his duty to protect Yuugi and he couldn't allow his aibou to stop living his life in order to help Yami learn more about his old one. But despite his noble sentiments, some small part of Yami still wanted to know, no matter what the cost. Wasn't that the real reason that he was participating in the Battle City tournament?
Closing his eyes, Yami sighed heavily. He had been fine without his memories so far, so why did it matter now? Why couldn't it have been enough just the way it was? Why did everything have to change with the limited knowledge he had gained? What difference did it make that he had been an ancient king, that he had willingly sealed himself into the Millennium Puzzle? How did it change the person that he was now? In every way, he thought bitterly, resenting himself for not being able to smother his desire to discover the truth.
Because now he knew why his room was a labyrinth, knew why there were an infinite amount of doors that led to nowhere inside of the place he had created. It was an empty palace that was a mockery of logic and himself and he had grown to loathe it recently. Before it had simply been the place that he had resided, but ever since he had started to remember, it had become the worst kind of prison—the kind that tempted one with promises only to shatter them when you decided to believe. The doors had always led to more doors, but now there were memories behind them sometimes, little moments that he could witness that told him next to nothing, but still revealed just enough to pain him. They were almost always scenes without consequence—an image of himself by the riverbanks of the Nile, another of him sitting amongst a stack of scrolls working silently—but it made him want to know more. But all he would find were more empty rooms, always bringing him to the brink of giving up, only to reveal another unimportant memory. And yet, they were precious things that he guarded closely, so closely that he didn't even let his aibou know. He had to protect Yuugi from such things; he was the mou hitori no boku and he couldn't let that change for his aibou. As much as he wanted to learn about his old identity, he still treasured his current one.
He hated feeling this way, hated the conflict it brought up in him. Almost everything had become dissatisfying because he suddenly had something to measure it against, something to compare it with now, flimsy as it was. Anzu, Honda, and Jounouchi were his friends, but they were his aibou's friends, first and foremost. They were the important friends that Yuugi had wished for on the strength of the Millennium Puzzle and he had been granted his deepest desire as a reward. Yes, they were also friends with Yami, but it was different. Even if Yami couldn't remember, he was confident that he once had friends to call his own, once had things that he wanted to share with them, to experience with them. Now he just wanted to protect this group for his aibou's continued happiness, to continue carrying out Yuugi's original wish.
Yami had always been proud to share their name, but now he couldn't stop the slight twinge of some unknown feeling deep inside of him when they called him Yuugi. Somehow it was always made worse when they called him mou hitori no Yuugi; it was almost like an even more drastic distance was created by the term. All it did was remind him that he had once been addressed by another name, a name that had been given to him by parents he could no longer remember.
He longed to know his real name, yearned to hear it on the lips of another in this modern time, but that would mean truly becoming something other than mou hitori no boku. It would be a hurtful separation and even knowing that, he could feel the pain in not knowing such a small detail. How had he forgotten something as important as his name? Forgotten all of his memories that must have been important to him once? And yet without someone to call out to him, without a reason to recall what had once been, was it any wonder that they disappeared because of neglect?
Perhaps it was for the best in some ways, though. Forgetting allowed him to live in limbo for centuries without ever realizing that anything was unusual about his existence. How else could anyone be expected to survive if they could remember everything? That itself would have perhaps been a greater curse. After all, he hadn't known what alone was until he had met his aibou and been surrounded by the warmth of their friendship. But it was only once he gained the knowledge of his previous life that he came to understand what loneliness was. It was not something that the ties of his modern friendships could help him escape, even though he could clearly remember various events to help him pass the time in his soul room when his aibou was moving through his real life.
In the centuries before meeting Yuugi, Yami could never be sure quite how much time passed since there were no indicators inside of his walls, no sun to show the passing of the days, no seasons to show the passing of the months, no aging process to reveal the passing of the years. But now Yami knew what hours felt like, what it felt like when they flew by, when they dragged on in silence; he now knew what he was missing as he remained in his enclosed solitary world.
Worse still was the recently uncovered emptiness inside of him that he still didn't understand. At first it had been an ache for something that he couldn't identify, an almost painful longing for something just beyond his reach, a desire for something that he could almost remember. More than any other memory, he had wanted to see the one that would help him understand the hollowness that was begging to be filled. A flash of blue, a flutter of white, and a golden expanse were the only clues he had to go with the whisper of a name he couldn't remember. Few things hurt as much as the realization that something so important had been lost to him and any time he tried to find out more, all he heard were the echoing footsteps of someone walking away. The only thing that had hurt more was when he had found the answer, simply because it was the only person he could never have.
Now that he had things to think about, it allowed him too much time to do so. Yami was becoming almost masochistic in his desires to remember and to forget. He had to know, needed to know, and yet he didn't want to, but that still couldn't suppress his desire. His sole comfort was the fact that during those times, his aibou was unable to listen in to his most private thoughts. He hated cutting his aibou off from that part of his heart, but he knew it was necessary, knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was critical to maintain a chance at things remaining the way that they were currently. Because it wasn't so much the feelings of loneliness that affected him, so much as it was the source of it and he knew that his aibou could never know, would never understand.
Just as he had withheld the knowledge from his aibou about his first visit to the museum with Anzu, he also hid the second one as well. He had wanted to see the tablet again and try to see what else he could learn from it, especially since his mind had been unable to stop trying to figure out if the other figure on the carving was somehow related to Kaiba. Isis had said that he need to discover the true meaning on his own time and so he had waited until he was confident that his aibou was in a deep enough sleep before acting on his whim. Sneaking out after Jii-chan had gone to sleep, Yami made his way to the museum, fully intending to use the powers granted to him from the Millennium Puzzle to obtain what he wanted, but found it to be unnecessary since Isis was waiting for him at the top of the stairs.
Without exchanging a word, she beckoned for him to follow and allowed him entrance into the museum, escorting him to the room that held the artifacts and left him there in silence. Hesitantly approaching the glass, Yami had looked up at it in amazement, taking his time as he read the words on it, relishing the fact that he could comprehend what was written, even if he didn't fully understand the meaning. But as much as he had wanted to learn about himself, his eyes kept straying to the figure with the Blue Eyes White Dragon flying above him. Something deep inside of him told him that the person somehow had a connection to the modern day Kaiba, but it wasn't enough to go on instinct alone.
The longer Yami studied the monument, he became increasingly aware of a faint but discernable emotion that was resonating from the stone. Without understanding why, Yami began to feel an overwhelming sense of loss and he gingerly raised his hand to touch the glass. To his surprise, his hand passed through it and came into contact with the stele itself, but he didn't have much time to process it since it felt as if his soul was being forcibly removed from his body as a result.
He found that instead of being in the museum, he was floating above a scene taking place in ancient Egypt; to his surprise, it wasn't the battle itself he was witnessing, but a quieter moment in what appeared to be a bedroom. Looking around, Yami's eyes went wide at the sight of a tan Kaiba in Egyptian clothing sitting at a desk and working diligently on something. Approaching with caution since he was fearful that he might be seen, Yami looked over and was startled by the fact that he was seeing the design for the tablet being drawn by the priest who so resembled Kaiba.
The sound of a small sigh made Yami return his attention to the face of the other and he instantly felt a deep and resonating sadness at the look in those blue eyes, confusing him. Yami watched as the priest set his brush down and gently traced the outline of the illustrated pharaoh's face with trembling fingers, the open expression of despair overwhelming. He longed to do something, but Yami found himself unable to move, unable to do anything but watch. The priest started to say something only to stop, his fingers still lingering on the parchment.
If he hadn't known better, Yami would have thought the priest about to cry, but he suddenly froze, poised for an attack that never came as the mask of arrogant indifference that Yami was so familiar with replaced the former vulnerability. Relaxing his stance but maintaining the icy look, the priest wandered away from his desk and went to his balcony, looking out over the palace grounds blankly. Yami had followed in order to continue his observations and he was standing next to the priest, studying the differences between this person and the counterpart he was familiar with, surprised by how similar the two seemed. There was no doubt in his mind that there was a connection, but the question was how? The priest had been holding the Millennium Rod in the engraving, but so far Yami had seen no evidence of it being present. In Yami's mind there were only two options: either the person he was seeing eventually became sealed in the Millennium Rod and had yet to be awakened in their modern time or else Kaiba was the reincarnation of this man's soul. Either way, he wanted to know more.
Suddenly, a loud voice exclaimed, "Pharaoh," and Yami started to glance in that direction, but was stopped by the look on the other's face. For a singular moment, the removed expression took on a hopeful look only to be replaced by a cynical smirk that Yami was all too familiar with; it pained Yami for unknown reasons. Faintly he heard a thought pass through the priest's mind, What were you expecting? To turn around and see him? Ridiculous sentimentalism, Seto.
Yami was more surprised by the thought and sense of disappointment he could feel lingering within the priest who had addressed himself as Seto than he was by his response of, "You dare to disturb me?" Only after he had composed his expression did Seto finally turn around to focus his hard gaze on the one who had entered his chambers.
The man began to stutter, not daring to look up from his place on the floor where he knelt, "I-I apologize for my—for my abrupt intrusion, b-but my Pharaoh, it is an urgent and—"
"Leave," Seto commanded with a dismissive wave, heading back over to his worktable.
"But, my Pharaoh—!"
After having received countless glares from Kaiba, Yami had grown somewhat accustomed to the fierceness, but never before had he seen anything so close to a vicious and murderous expression that promised violence in Kaiba. Even though he was an unseen entity, Yami found himself wanting to move away from such a terrifying look, and yet he found himself drawn to it at the same time. Was it overcompensation for his momentary lapse in strength earlier? Seto's voice was terse as he threatened, "You will not live to regret making me repeat myself."
Visibly flinching and swallowing hard, the man on the floor was clearly cowering in fear, but he made no move to rise from his position. "By your gracious and forgiving good will—" the man started and Seto began seething.
The idea of Kaiba being gracious and forgiving caused Yami to snort out loud and he instantly regretted it as soon as he saw Seto tense up and narrow his eyes. Feeling safe once he realized Kaiba wasn't looking in his direction, he winced as Seto roared, "Get out," to the man on the floor, the sound of it echoing off of the cavernous walls of the room.
"It's about the Millennium Pyramid, my Pharaoh!" the man blurted out, not daring to look up at his enraged ruler.
Yami was shocked by those words and apparently Seto was as well, but it was quickly hidden behind his normal mask. "What?" Seto asked in a dangerously low tone, not believing what he had just heard.
The man raised himself slightly, but still did not dare to look in the pharaoh's direction. Instead, he called out loudly, "Priest Aziz," and the sound of hurried footsteps could be heard approaching, belonging to a young man in priest robes who was carrying a small object wrapped in linen. Entering with a low bow, he approached Seto reverently as the man on the floor began explaining in rushed words, "Some thieves were caught trying to raid the previous pharaoh's tomb and—"
"They did what?" Seto demanded in barely controlled rage, his hand clenching tightly into a fist.
Aziz carefully set the object on the desk in front of Seto and finished with a simple, "Everything was recovered and all present were captured. Their sentencing is set for tomorrow."
Seto nodded and said nothing, never taking his eyes off of the linen wrapped item, an unreadable expression on his face. "Leave me," Seto said quietly, to which both men bowed low and obeyed without another word.
Yami watched as Seto remained unmoving, his eyes unfocused on the object that had been placed before him. Reaching out to pull it closer, the instant his fingers came into contact with the fabric, Seto's grip tightened almost possessively on it as he once again took a seat at his desk. As Seto began to unwrap it, Yami edged closer to watch, shocked when he saw a small gold box that had the other narrowing his eyes. "They will pay with their lives in this life and the next for this humiliation," Seto swore as he carefully removed the lid.
Inside were the unassembled pieces of the Millennium Puzzle and Yami watched in fascination as Seto began removing them piece by piece and gently laying them on the small linen sheet in neat little rows. Yami realized that Seto was counting them to make sure that none had gone missing and he was strangely touched and comforted by the gesture and yet he still felt the emotions from before returning as he watched Seto stare at them with a helpless expression of frustration. Picking up the center piece and tracing the edges with his thumb, Seto softly said, "If I can't find an answer, I'll just have to create one," but there was still a determination there, one that Yami was used to seeing in Kaiba. He remained like that, unmoving except for gently rotating the single piece between his fingers before finally vowing, "By the gods, I'll find a way to bring you back," running his thumb lightly over the eye, tracing the pattern.
The action unexpectedly activated the completed Millennium Puzzle Yami was wearing and he could already feel the eye appearing on his forehead as the pyramid began to glow in response. Seto slowly turned to face Yami, an astonished look on his face as he stared at the specter that caused his eyes to go wide. Rising in order to approach, Seto never took his eyes off of Yami, refusing to let go of the piece that he believed made the vision possible. "Pharaoh?" Seto questioned, looking at him with such an emotional expression that Yami found himself at a loss.
Unsure of the ramifications of speaking, he merely nodded, realizing that he could feel the other's emotional state even more strongly now that there was a connection through the Millennium Item. There was a general sense of relief, a heightened sense of frustration, overwhelming confusion, slight shame, and an almost painful desire, although Yami didn't understand for what. He could only watch as Seto continued to move closer, each step increasing the turmoil inside of him, even as his expression remained composed.
"You were unharmed, then?"
Nodding once again, Yami could clearly see Seto struggling with his hesitancy to trust what he was seeing completely.
"Pharaoh, I…" Seto started, but trailed off, his eyes searching Yami's uncertainly.
When Seto reached out to him, Yami expected the fingers to pass through him, but was stunned by the warmth of the other's hand on his cheek. In that touch he could hear the echo of memories faintly stirring within him, could catch glimpses of nights spent together, of their hidden history that he was so desperate to reclaim, that the other was desperately trying to hold on to. Hesitantly placing his hand over Seto's, Yami leaned into the caress, feeling whispered stories in those fingertips, fragments of lost thoughts in that palm.
Not content with just that, Seto pulled Yami closer to him into a tight embrace, almost as if he were afraid to let go for fear of Yami disappearing again. He could feel Seto trembling slightly and he instinctually found himself wrapping his arms around the other, earning him another heartbeat of knowledge, finding that this was familiar to him somehow. Unbidden, his voice softly betrayed his silence as he called out, "Seto," the other tensing up under his touch.
Yami was overcome by a rush of complicated feelings coming from the other, any sense of restraint or any lingering doubts completely gone as it spurred Seto into action. Yami felt those long fingers entangling in his hair, felt that intense gaze like never before as Seto leaned forward and gently captured his lips, escalating it into a heated kiss that was unlike anything Yami had ever experienced. But at the same time, it was reviving all sorts of memories that were trying to compete with the current moment and Yami felt himself quickly getting lost in it all. As he felt Seto's fingers running under his shirt and up along his spine, he moaned the other's name again, his instincts beginning to take over as his hands began to explore places that felt both new and so well known all at the same time.
"Pharaoh," Seto whispered in Yami's ear, sending a shiver through him as those fingers continued to ghost along his skin.
"Say my name, Seto," Yami pleaded, but he was instantly aware of a disconnect beginning to happen the instant those words were spoken.
Seto held onto him tightly, kissing him desperately until Yami lost his substantial form completely. Caressing the air as he traced the outline of Yami's face, Seto looked at him sadly but with a fierce determination that sent a thrill through him as the other promised, "I'll find you."
"I know," Yami replied, although he couldn't be sure if his words had reached the other or not.
"Wait for me," was the last thing he heard Seto say before Yami found himself back in the museum, his hand on the proper side of the glass, still lingering over the carved body of the ancient priest.
Struggling with the images and memories that he had gained, Yami had slid to his knees as he whispered, "For how long?" There was no doubt in his mind as to the validity of what he had seen, but it didn't make them any easier to accept.
Instead of lingering, Yami simply picked himself up off of the floor and left the room, never seeing Isis on his way out of the museum. Returning home, he had changed and made sure that there was no way his aibou would have known that he had gone out and retreated to the sanctuary of his soul room.
Except it was no longer a sanctuary after that night. Because left alone, he suddenly had time to deal with everything that had just happened. He had finally found his answer to what the ache inside of him was, but he was still left without any way to ease it. If anything, it was made even worse by the knowledge, by the fragmented memories he had inherited—memories of things he would have been better off not knowing since instead of explaining things as he had hoped, they only confused him further. It was positively torturous and it didn't help any that his mind kept trying to substitute Kaiba because of the inordinate amount of time the two had been spending together lately, either.
That in and of itself struck Yami as strange. Kaiba had willingly sought him out during the Battle City preliminaries and then followed him—even going so far as to help him—and Yami hadn't known what to make of that. Yami had fixated on Jounouchi just to distract himself from the emotions that he felt at being so close to the other for so long. It wasn't right to look at Kaiba through the memories of Seto, but Yami found it hard to stop himself from wanting more. He had even tried discussing it with Kaiba by revealing the truth about his connection with the Millennium Puzzle, but it had been met with shock that quickly turned into a skeptical derision that had pained him. Despite that, Yami was careful to maintain the same unaffected appearance as always.
Finally opening his eyes, he stared into the dark night with another sigh, hating that he was hesitating to return to the puzzle for such foolish reasons. Everything was just such a mess right now and Yami felt torn about everything. Why couldn't he just ignore that selfish part that wanted to know more, ignore the pointless desire to discover the truth? When would it stop being worth it? Mai, Bakura, and Rashid had all come into harm as a result of their battles and Yami wondered how many more would fall. Yami would never forgive himself if something happened to Jounouchi, but as much as he wanted to trust that everything would be okay, some part of him feared that the worst was yet to come.
Reaching into his pocket and pulling out the Millennium Tauk, Yami watched as it still managed to glint in the little light available to it. Isis had said it no longer worked because of her defeat by Kaiba, but Yami couldn't help but wish that it still had some of its original power remaining. He wasn't so bold as to want to see into the future in order to secure his own fate, but having the reassurance of knowing that his friends would come out unharmed was tempting. Lightly running his thumb over the eye, he couldn't help but feel somewhat disappointed when it failed to activate, though. Still, he kept it in his hands and absentmindedly traced the familiar design as he waited for the sun to rise.
A/N: Thanks for reading the first quarter of my one shot in four parts! XD
While my last story was a comedy that tended to veer into psychological realms, this one is largely focused on the darker side of the characters. I don't think it crosses over into angst by any measure, even if those boys certainly can be that from time to time. This piece will be heavy on the thoughts and reflections, but I hope that everyone can find something worthwhile within it.
I decided to experiment with a slightly different style of writing with this piece. I wanted to try and capture the fluidity of stream of conscious thought, but temper it with a structured form that would give it balance. So if you found something confusing, let me know so that I can either answer your question, or go back and try to make things a little clearer. I know that jumping from the present to extended memories can sometimes be a little rough…
For those of you who have followed me here from Catnip Dream, I just thought I'd let you know that the sequel is already in the process of being written and I will be posting it after I complete this story. Hopefully this can tide you over in the interim, ne?
Part II: For Now
When Kaiba goes to confront Yami on the top deck, he wasn't quite expecting that to happen…
The second part will go up next Sunday once I get off of work, so please look forward to it! Thank you for taking the time to read this and please feel free to leave a review and let me know what you thought of this.