Author's Note: This fic is actually a songfic but, as FFnet won't allow one to post songfics, I've removed the lyrics between the lines of narrative. It still makes sense, but it loses a LOT in my opinion. Still . . . ((shrugs)) The fic can be read in its original form on my LiveJournal, here – http: / / dragondancer515. livejournal. com/ 15430. html (and remove all spaces, of course…). The song is "Trouble Me" by 10,000 Maniacs.

This came to mind more or less as a response to "It's Over!" but could also be taken alone, so I've posted it separately. Enjoy!

Disclaimer –"Yu-Gi-Oh!" and all related characters, events, and concepts belong to Takahashi Kazuki and any other related owners/distributors/producers, as does the song to its respective owner(s). I get no monetary benefit from this. My benefit is the enjoyment of dealing with beloved characters.

"Trouble Me"
by DragonDancer5150

Trouble . . .

Yugi lay awake in his bed, the Puzzle comfortably heavy on his chest. He had let Yami think he was blissfully asleep, but –

He had felt it. In his heart, he sensed when Yami emerged from his soul room in the Puzzle to check on Yugi after another one of his nightmares. They seemed to be coming more and more often these days. Yugi was not sure which bothered him more: the fact that Yami suffered such terrible dreams –

– or that he invariably deferred from talking about them.

Yami saw himself as Yugi's protector. Yugi knew this. Part of him deeply appreciated it and part of him, he had to admit, was more than a little annoyed by the knowledge. It meant that the spirit did not believe Yugi could handle himself. That had certainly been true once, but Yugi had grown and come a long way since solving the Millennium Puzzle so long ago now. He was not a child, and no longer the "cowardly self" between the two of them. He and Yami had been through countless trials together. Yugi had proven himself time and again, and Yami openly claimed him as an equal partner in their struggles, affectionately calling him "Aibou" as one might nickname a little brother.

All right, so maybe it was not that Yami thought he needed protecting from outside so much anymore – when they fought, they fought together. However, Yami still tried to protect Yugi – if only from himself. Yugi knew that the spirit blamed himself for the troubles that his aibou had suffered since solving the Puzzle: Dark Bakura, Pegasus, Otogi's father, Malik . . .

Yugi shook his head. Yami always was the "strong one" – the fighter, the protector, the Duelist, the rock in the storm . . . but he was also human. True, he was no longer a living human, but human all the same, subject to the same range of emotions as anyone. Yami could not completely hide from Yugi when he had been uncertain, frightened, grieving, lost. He never would give in to such weaknesses – he could never allow himself to be "weak" – and so he buried any feelings he had of fear, doubt or inadequacy. That did not mean, however – when the duel was done and he returned to the solitude of his soul room – that those terrible feelings did not plague him there in the darkness alone. Still, whenever Yugi went to try to comfort and support his friend, Yami always insisted that he was "okay," even though Yugi could sense that, beneath the brave façade, he was not.

Yugi closed his eyes and withdrew into himself to that place where the doors of their soul rooms faced one another across an imagined hallway. This time, he decided, he simply would not take "no" for an answer.

"Aibou," the spirit startled, having come to the door in answer to the presence just outside. "I thought you were asleep. I'm sorry. Did I wake you?"

Yugi frowned, the words escaping him before he could reconsider, not wanting possibly to cause a problem no matter how much the words needed to be said. "Yami, please don't call me that unless you really do mean it."

Yami just stared at him for a moment, taken aback by the comment. "What do you mean, 'unless I really do – '?"

"I know you've been having nightmares. Please, speak to me - what's going on, Nakama?" Yugi very deliberately made use of his own nickname for Yami, calling him his "buddy," using it as a term of endearment and intimate friendship.

Yugi's frown deepened as he watched Yami formulate his answer, one of placation and reassurance – just as he had done countless times. Yugi shook his head.

"No, Yami. I know something's bothering you." He gazed up at the spirit in earnest. "I wish you'd trust me enough to talk about it."

Perhaps those were the magic words. Yami backpedaled verbally, and all but physically, at the implied accusation. "Yugi! No, don't say that. Of course, I trust you. Aibou – "

"This is the third night in a row you've had a dream that I know has upset you. I can feel it. Please, talk to me, Nakama. What is it that's bothering you so much? I'm . . . I'm really worried about you."

Yugi watched the thoughts play across Yami's eyes – doubt, uncertainty, a deep and genuine fear he could not deny, despite the fact that he had been fighting it for days now. Face-to-face, soul-to-soul as they were, Yami could not completely hide the grief and horror still plaguing him from the nightmare. He pulled a shuddering breath, his voice raw in spite of his best efforts. "Y-yugi, I – " He shook his head. "It's nothing, Aibou, really – just dreams that don't mean anything." Even as he spoke, however, his throat closed on the words and his chin tucked, eyes closing involuntarily as a tear escaped down his cheek.

"They mean something to you," Yugi pressed softly, tears welling up in his own eyes at the hints of the emotional storm leaking free through the cracks in the spirit's protective shell of immovable calm.

When Yami did not answer right away, Yugi murmured, "The Puzzle chose me to be your partner, my other self, and I've made a promise to you – to be your partner as long as you need me. I'm here for you, Nakama, not just as your vessel to interact with the outside world but as your friend. With Jonouchi, you're one of my closest friends in all the world, and I wouldn't trade that for anything, no matter what trouble comes of it. I don't care, Nakama. I want to share in that with you. I'm glad to. I really am!" The quiet tears began to fall more freely.

"Aibou . . . " Yami did not even try to hide his own tears any more as he took his friend by the shoulders. "Those 'troubles' have nearly destroyed you once already. That final duel with Malik, the Shadow Game . . . " His voice shook as he recalled the climactic Final Round of Battle City. He did not speak them, but Yugi knew his thoughts. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you . . .

Yugi managed a reassuring smile. Yami was talking to him, letting him in, even if only a little. "What, Nakama?" he prodded gently, his voice a whisper. "What about the duel with Malik?" Maybe this was the source of the nightmares. Maybe Yami would finally let him in on his personal weakness a little, his personal struggle; let Yugi be the supporter as Yami had always been for him. Yugi longed so much to help his friend, to return even just a fraction of what he still believed Yami had given him.

Yami scowled deeply at the memories – Yugi's soul separated out of their heart and the Puzzle, bound in energy chains as the darkness of the Shadow Game slowly consumed him; Yami's own torment in his helplessness to save his partner and closest friend; the despair, the fear, the grief of impending and irrevocable loss. "That day . . . "

It was a false start, apparently, as Yami shook his head and would not say more. Yugi frowned. "Nakama, things always seem worse when you don't talk about them. When you talk about what's troubling you, you can realize how it's not so bad. If nothing else, sharing things with others helps you deal with them yourself. Please . . . " He paused, then licked his lips uncertainly and tried again, guessing the thing that bothered his partner the most. "Yami, you're not weak, no matter what your brain's telling you right now." Yami's eyes had fallen away from his, but they snapped back up, sharp amethyst orbs meeting his softer gaze. "You are strong. You're one of the strongest people I know! But even strong people aren't strong all the time. They can't be. Everyone gets afraid sometimes and worries about things outside of their control. You can't always be in control, Nakama . . . and that's okay. It's okay to be uncertain about the future. It's okay to be afraid of what might happen to your loved ones. It's normal. I worry about Mom every time she leaves for work. I worry about Jonouchi when he goes home to his dad. I worry about Grandpa being alone in the store all day. I worry because I love them. So, you see? It's okay. If you're worried, that doesn't make you weak, just . . . human."

Yami was shaking his head emphatically. "Yugi, no – that is no comparison. Your very existence and presence do not put them in danger. M-mine . . . " Does.

Yugi shrugged, grinning weakly. "I was in danger even before the Puzzle, Nakama – if only from bullies. Heh . . . that's all anyone's been since, too, when it comes down to it – just one bully after another. It's not your fault."

"Still, it isn't fair. You shouldn't be asked – "

"It's not fair that you're a prisoner in a puzzle, either," Yugi countered, his feelings of "upset" spilling forth in a sudden rush. "It's not fair that you have no memory of yourself or your past – your family, your friends, anything! It's not fair that you don't even know your own name! Life isn't fair. You know that as well as I do. It's what we choose to do with the cards we're dealt, just like when we duel. Life dealt the Millennium Puzzle to me. Life dealt me to you. We hold each other's cards, and we can choose to play or to discard them. I will not discard you, my other self. The question is: will you continue to hold onto me as a hand card, trying to protect me – or are you going to play me on the field and let me help you? I'm stronger than you seem to think, Yami. I don't need looking after like a little kid. Am I your partner or not? Will you let me be here for you like you've always been there for me . . . or not?" He did not mean to come across as harshly as he felt he sounded. Still . . .

Yugi sighed. "It's not a weakness to need to lean on someone else just a little from time to time. All I'm asking for is your trust that I'm strong enough to help you deal with the things that are bothering you so much, that you let me be your friend." He grinned suddenly and gave Yami a playful wink. "I know you really don't want to but – trouble me, okay?"

They still stood in the hall between their rooms. Yami gazed at him for a long moment, deeply stricken. He hesitated for so long that Yugi feared he would fall back again on the usual defenses but, at length, he relented with a small smile, releasing a deep sigh of something akin to relief. "Forgive me, Aibou," he admitted with a weary chuckle. "I have been trying to protect you – wrongly. I didn't realize that I was hurting you so by not turning to you, by not . . . 'letting you in'." He stepped back, inviting Yugi into his soul room. "So," he breathed, lingering horror belying the amicable grin, "you want to hear about nightmares, then, do you, Aibou?"

Yugi nodded. "Yup! Heh, just think of them as scary bedtime stories."

Yami closed the door behind his dear friend, his partner, his brother.

Trust is what I'm offering, if you'll trouble me.

Author's Notes: Please be sure to check my bio page for any updates, etc. Thanks!