Coming Forth by Sundown
Pairing(s): YamixYugi, JouxMai, brief mentioning of YamixAnzu and YugixAnzu
Spoilers: Post-series, thus, many spoilers, including Yami's real name
Yugi didn't know how long he stood there, but eventually he heard the sound of footsteps and turned to see his friends emerging from the tomb, all looking somewhat shell-shocked. He noticed vaguely that Mai was clutching Jounouchi's hand.
"Jounouchi…?" He asked, voice hoarse. "Are you okay?"
Jounouchi nodded. "I don't really remember what happened…but otherwise yes."
"His body went limp a few minutes after…he vanished," Mai said quietly. "And then Jounouchi came back. Hanif must have been called back to the underworld."
"Then it must have worked…Atemu must have…"
If they were surprised by the fact that he was able to say Atemu's name, they didn't show it.
Anzu stepped forward, carrying a bundle of familiar clothing, and said, "Only his body was…taken. He sort of turned into this shadowy fog, and then vanished. I guess he created his body out of magic…so when he left all other physical things didn't matter."
Yugi took the bundle. Resting on top was a small stack of silver bracelets. Balancing the clothes on one arm, he took the bracelets in his hand and gazed at them for a moment. They still felt warm.
He looked up at the sky and back down at the bracelets, and then asked, "Anzu, what time is it in Japan?"
Startled, she checked her watch. "Around one forty-five in the morning."
"If we were able to find a plane…would we make it back in time for the toro-nagashi?"
"Yeah, we would."
He hugged the clothes to his chest, and on them he could detect Atemu's scent, evoking grief and warm comfort at the same time. Then, slipping the bracelets onto his wrist, he turned and began walking toward the helicopter where Rishid sat, waiting. "Let's go home."
- - -
"Did it work?" Marik asked the moment they walked in the door. Everyone glanced down at Yugi. Yugi said nothing and walked silently past and into the spare room where his bag was.
Marik, eyebrows furrowed, looked quizzically at his friends. "Well? Is Jounouchi back?"
Jounouchi, whose hand was still in Mai's, nodded. "I'm back."
"So that means it did work! …Oh." He had just realized the reason for Yugi's actions. "It worked, so…Atemu is…?"
"Yeah." Honda said.
Ishizu, watching sympathetically, got up. "I'm sorry. Is there anything we can do to repay you?"
Anzu, who had been staring in quiet concern at the bedroom door Yugi had vanished before, looked up. "Do you know if there are any flights we can catch home? Yugi wants to be back for the toro-nagashi."
"You can use my plane." Ishizu crossed the room to where her purse sat on the table and pulled out a cell phone, flipping it open. "As Marik and Rishid currently have no work, I think a short visit with my family this weekend would be nice. I'll call the pilot and let him know to expect you."
"Thank you Ishizu. That's very generous."
"Nonsense. The least I can do is get you home."
In the bedroom, Yugi could hear the conversation through the door. He sat down on the bed, set down the pile of clothes, and reached for his bag to put them away. As he unzipped it, he heard Marik say Atemu's name.
He tensed at the sound, sighed, and set the bag back down. His eyes stung as he squeezed them shut and clutched his clothes back to his chest.
He jolted to attention at the sound of Anzu's voice and lifted his head. "Um…Anzu, sorry. What is it?"
"Ishizu's getting us a flight home. We're going to leave now."
"Okay." He got up, shoved the clothes inside his bag, and zipped it shut. "I'm ready."
She hesitated. "Yugi, are you–"
"Anzu, Yugi, come on!"
Yugi broke eye contact with her and slid past through the doorway.
They all said very little on the flight home. Jounouchi and Honda slept most of the way. Mai spent much of the trip with her eyes trained on Jounouchi, a curious expression in them. Yugi leaned against the window, his eyes closed. But Anzu, watching him from the corner of her eye, could tell he wasn't sleeping. Every now and then his jaw would tighten and a few tears would escape, causing him to turn and dry his cheeks with his sleeves.
The solemn silence in the plane brought back memories of the Ceremonial Battle and the trip back home to her, though Yugi's demeanor couldn't have been more different. But for some reason, the tears didn't scare her nearly as much as his calmness during the flight several months before had.
After the plane touched down, Yugi turned to them and said, "I'm going straight home. There're still several hours before the boat launching, and there're things I have to do…and see how much trouble I'm in with my parents. I'll see you all later?"
"You're going to go make a lantern boat for Atemu, right?" Honda asked.
"Then we wouldn't miss this year's toro-nagashi for anything," Jounouchi broke in. He turned and raised his arm. "Come on guys, let's all go home and make the best boats ever. Atemu's going to need all the help he can get, getting all those spirits back into the underworld."
It still hurt, but Yugi found himself managing a small smile at Jounouchi's fervor. In light of giving Atemu a proper farewell, it seemed Jounouchi had either forgotten - or didn't care - about the time he'd spent possessed. Yugi knew that Atemu would be happy to know it hadn't caused any damage.
Atemu...we have the best friends in the world.
- - -
That night, as dusk fell, every waterway in the city was crowded with people. Yugi had chosen the Domino Pier to launch his boat, knowing that location held a lot of memories for Atemu and his friends. He had just lit the candle in the boat with a lighter from a man helping out when he heard someone shouting, "Yugi! Hey!"
He turned and saw his friends hurrying toward him, all dressed in yukatas and carrying small lantern boats.
"Everyone! I'm glad you're here…"
"Let's all launch our boats together," Jounouchi said, pulling out a lighter and flicking it open. They watched as he attempted to spark it, before giving up and shouting at a crowd nearby, "Hey! Who has a working lighter? We've got an important spirit to say good-bye to!"
Mai, as if anticipating his failure to bring a working one, procured one from inside her yukata. "Here Jounouchi, got you covered."
He smiled, pausing long enough to make their fingers touch as she passed it to him. "Thanks Mai."
Yugi turned away so they wouldn't see him smiling to himself at their flirting and looked out at the water, alight with hundreds of other tiny boats. Then he looked down at the boat in his hands. The candle was encircled by a few silver bracelets. The rest of the bracelet set jingled on his arm as he lay down on the dock, placed the boat in the water, and gave it a push. It glided away easily, followed by the small platoon of lighted vessels from Jounouchi, Honda, Anzu, and Mai.
"I'd like to stay here for a little while, is that okay?" He asked.
The others nodded and left quietly, and he arranged himself on the edge of the dock, watching Atemu's boat drift away, the candle burning brightly.
He wasn't entirely sure how he felt yet…the plane ride hadn't been long enough to settle on one emotion. At one moment he felt peaceful, then in the next he felt like screaming from the pain, and the next after he just felt numb. Part of him treasured the memory of Atemu holding him, the touch of his hands and warmth of his fingers, and his gentle words. But another part of him filled with stinging sadness when he thought of how long it might be before he ever got to feel that touch or hear that voice again.
And something still bothered him.
"Why didn't you ever tell me before that you loved me…?" He whispered.
"It was because he didn't want to hold you back," a voice answered him, and he looked over to see Anzu sitting down beside him.
"Atemu told me…when he ran from Marik's house and I found him, he told me about his feelings for you. He asked me not to tell you…but because he told you himself, I think that means it's okay."
"What did he say?" Yugi asked. "About me?"
"Basically that you were his life." She smiled. "But that he knew…that your lives weren't supposed to be intertwined. He was determined to never hold you back from your true potential. He was devoted to you, Yugi…his aibou."
Yugi was silent for a long time as he thought about that. More tears had formed in his eyes.
You truly loved me, Atemu. And I…
Then, his gaze trained on the water: "You know, it's funny Anzu. I've loved Atemu for years. Yet…I've always chosen to let him go. I didn't have to help him find his memories. I didn't have to take on, much less win the Ceremonial Battle. I didn't have to let go of him tonight…but I always have. I love him more than anything, but I've always chosen to move on without him."
She watched him as he sighed and wrapped his arms around his legs. "Atemu…probably doesn't know I loved him just as much as he loved me."
"What? Of course he knows!"
"How could he? I always let him go. Last night…I told him I loved him. But then I let go of him, and I don't think…he really understood how deeply I meant it. If I truly loved him…I wouldn't have given up. I'd have gone with him."
"No Yugi, that isn't true!"
He looked up in surprise at her. "Anzu…?"
"Letting him go…was the proof that you loved him that he wanted," she said. "Didn't you see it in his eyes? He told me that freedom was all he could give you. If you had held onto him, if you'd refused to let him give you that, you would have hurt him. He wouldn't have been able to go in peace. You chose to honour his wishes, you spared him from that pain…how much more proof could you have given him?"
"I guess none." Yugi looked up at the stars, allowing his tears to course freely down his face. "It just seems so unfair…that freedom is the only gift we've ever been able to give each other. I always thought…I could give him more. Or maybe I just wished I could."
"You loved him, and he knew. I don't think you could give him anything greater than that," she replied.
Yugi nodded, unable to speak around the lump in his throat. Anzu nervously folded her hands as she watched him struggle for control, recalling the recent months of watching him suffer. "Yugi…are you going to be okay?"
He nodded again, taking a deep breath. "I will be, Anzu. It's strange…but I actually…feel more at peace with this than I did after the Ceremonial Battle. That battle…I spent it all showing pride and honour, determined to show Atemu that I was strong. I thought strength meant not revealing my fears or my feelings. I never considered…that telling him the truth might be a form of strength too. And there has always been a part of my heart that was missing because of it. Tonight…I feel this terrible sadness from losing him…but I also finally feel whole again. I think I did the right thing by telling him before he left. I feel like I got the closure that we didn't have last time."
"I think Atemu would agree. When he talked to me it was obvious he believed in your strength, but he thought you would hate him if you knew about his feelings. The fact that you returned them, that you cared enough about him to support him in his toughest moment…I think that meant the world to him."
"Yeah…and it's not really forever," he murmured.
She didn't reply, too busy lost in thought as she thought about the devotion to each other that the two young men showed. And despite missing Atemu and still shaken from the past few days, she found herself smiling. Nothing except unconditional love existed between the two…and as sad as it was to witness, it was also something beautiful.
"…Anzu?" he asked, noticing her silence. "What's wrong? Do you…think it's stupid that I still believe I'll see him again?"
She shook her head. "No. Actually, I've got a good feeling that you will."
Yugi looked over at her and she saw a light shining in his eyes. A light that she hadn't seen for months. "I've got a good feeling too. Because…we made a promise. And because I still don't believe…that freedom is all we can give to each other. I think someday the time will come when we can give something more. I'll wait for that day. I think Atemu would understand if I moved on. He'd be okay if I found someone new and forgot him, but that's not what I want. I want to wait."
She smiled. "I think he'll be waiting too."
Despite the tears still flowing down his face, Yugi smiled back and then looked back up at the sky. His voice choked slightly, but grew stronger as he said, "But first I have to live my life…so that he will still be proud of me when the day comes that I meet him again."
Anzu touched his shoulder. "I know he will be. How could he not?"
"Thank you, Anzu. For everything. For helping him…us…"
"It was nothing."
Yugi shook his head. "It was much more than that."
She patted his shoulder and got to her feet, her fears quelled. She didn't have to worry about him this time. "Well, I'll leave you alone now. We'll be at the Bon-Odori."
Yugi nodded. "I'll be there soon. Make sure Jounouchi and Honda don't eat all the watermelon before I get there."
"Okay." She smiled and walked away quietly, leaving Yugi to sit in quiet thought.
Nearby, a small girl waved at the boat she and her mother had just launched and she called out, "Good-bye Daddy! See you next year!"
Yugi smiled at the family and then back out at the water. Atemu's boat had vanished in the cluster of lighted vessels.
I should say good-bye too.
But instead, as he stood up and looked out one last time, he found himself unable to really say farewell. Atemu was all around him…in the Earth, in the stars, in the gold and crimson rays of the setting sun, in his heart…
How could he say good-bye to someone who would never truly leave him?
So instead he just whispered, "wait for me," to the horizon, and turned to go join his friends at the festival.
And somewhere, he could feel it, Atemu was smiling.
- owari -
Notes: This is the part where I let you in on some fic history. Fun trivia, if you will. In the first draft of this fic, Yugi and Anzu ended up together at the end, with Atemu (whose love for Yugi remained unrequited and unknown to Yugi. He got Anzu and Yugi to admit their feelings for each other.) leaving with the boats at the end of the third day. He vanishes when they set the boat sail. Sweet, but too cruel to Atemu, plus my Peachshipping phase passed quickly and I lost interest in that ending. In the second, the magic would actually condemn the person it took to never be able to go back to the afterlife. Yugi forcibly pushed Atemu from the chamber (which at the time, the scene wasn't set in a chamber), the magic took his soul instead, and a very angsty Atemu returned to the afterlife at the end of the third day alone, never to see Yugi again. It was downright awful and depressing. This is the third version, and I like it the best. I think the fic sends the messages I wanted it to send, I think it ends on a bittersweet but not horrifically downtrodden note, and I think I managed to stay as canon as possible, keeping to the established rules of the Yugioh world that Takahashi created, while making Puzzleshipping canon at the same time. Also, in a way, this is my rebellion against the original ending. Even if Atemu couldn't stay, I would have much preferred the series to end with a confession. I suspect my readers want to slap me for not letting them stay together, (or even letting them have a proper kiss) but I hope you enjoyed the fic through to the end. If so, then I feel like I've achieved the most important goal of all. ^^
Normally I don't come out and ask for it, but if you've got the time, I'd love to get some gentle concrit on the fic as a whole. What you liked, what seemed too choppy or confused you, that kind of thing. I'm finally setting out toward my goal to be published someday, and when I'm an author I'm going to have to get used to concrit, (which will not always be gentle), and this is the place to begin getting used to asking for it.
Thank you all for reading and for your comments, critiques, and occasional rants. ;3 I hope to hear from you in future fics!