Title: Anonymous and Unforgotten
Author: Nina/TechnicolorNina
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh!
Pairing/Characters: Yuugi/Black Magician, with Atem and Co. making a couple of random appearances.
Word Count: 5 683
Story Rating: T/PG-13 for situations bordering on blatantly sexual.
Story Summary: A series of occurrences and interactions between Yuugi and the Black Magician, beginning with their meeting in Atem's soul room.
Warnings: A slight taste of lime.
Notes: Nah. Written by request.
Feedback: There may be something out there that's better than a review containing concrit, but if there is, I haven't found it yet. So if you have two minutes and you wouldn't mind? Please? Thanks. (And concrit is cool. Flames are not.)
Special Thanks/Dedications: For a nonny mouse requester over on LJ.

Yuugi sighed and settled into his soul room. Anzu was going to be ridiculously happy, the other Yuugi wouldn't appreciate it one bit, and Yuugi himself was simply going to have to hang out in the Puzzle for awhile. He wished bitterly that he was the one currently sitting in a small café and sharing drinks with the pretty blue-eyed girl he was so head-over-heels for.

Well, he thought, that's life.

Eventually Yuugi became restless and pushed himself out of the imitation of his bedroom desk chair, leaving a jigsaw half-finished on the replica desk. He padded out of his soul room and across the hall. The nice thing about soul rooms, Yuugi thought, was that they were quite clear about their owners' intentions. Most folk would have found themselves unable to budge the door to the other's room--it would have been locked as tightly as an atomic vault. And indeed, there were times when the other Yuugi left the door sealed--times, Yuugi suspected, when he was brooding or doing whatever passed for sleep in his incorporeal state. If the door were locked now, Yuugi would respect it and go back to the increasingly boring jigsaw. Maybe he ought to try turning the pieces blank and doing it then. It would at least make it harder.

Yuugi's fears proved groundless; the door swung open at only a feather-light touch, and Yuugi proceeded inside. Maybe while Yuugi's other self was out with Anzu, Yuugi could find something--some shred of memory, something as simple as a name or a smile--to knock everything else loose. Something Yuugi's other self held dear, an old friend, something, anything . . .

. . . and he was in the large hall Shaadi had shown him, a small figure made smaller by the huge stone tablets it walked between. There was a key here, then, must be.

At first Yuugi didn't recognise the figure sitting on an upturned tablet at the end of the room. It appeared to be a man dressed in much the same fashion as Yuugi himself, and Yuugi approached cautiously. The figure looked up, then raised his hand in greeting.

"Hail, little master."

Yuugi raised his own hand in an awkward wave and wished he knew why the figure seemed so familiar. Finally he scuffed his foot.

"Okay, I'm sorry, but I'm totally lost. Who are you?"

The figure smiled. "You know me."

"I know I've seen you before," Yuugi apologised, "but I can't place where. Are you trapped in the Puzzle, too?"

"Yes," the figure said. "No."

Yuugi's brow wrinkled in confusion. "Is this a dream?"

"Yes," the figure said again. Scarred eyes looked at Yuugi with the patience of a veteran teacher. "No."

"Who are you?" Yuugi asked, now feeling impatient. "What's going on?"

"You ask who I am," the figure answered. "I tell you that you know, if you only care to think. You ask if I am a prisoner in these walls. I tell you I am not. And you ask if you find yourself dreaming, as though dreaming and waking are two mutually exclusive categories, when they are not. As fif you cannot have a river that is also a road, or a song that is also a colour."

"That makes no sense," Yuugi protested. "Will you just tell me how I know you?"

The man only looked at him, and Yuugi thought that there was something he ought to recognise about the eyes, something he would get if he only saw them out of the shadows. Then the man leaned forward, dark hair swinging into his face, and let his hand rest, palm out, against the thin fabric of Yuugi's shirt just above his heart. "I've told you that you know me."

"This is the Hall of Tablets," Yuugi said slowly. "I think. Kind of. Are you the keeper, or something?"

Yuugi regretted asking; the dark eyes flashed with anger. "I am not. That man has gone to a pair of deaths." The eyes quieted, and in them Yuugi now saw mischief, amusement, sadness. He hadn't been aware the three could coexist. "The answer you seek is here." And he pulled his hand away from Yuugi's chest. Now there was a card between his first two fingers.

"How did you do that? There wasn't anything here!"

The figure raised an eyebrow and held the card out to Yuugi, who took it and looked at it. Yuugi had never been big on sardonic humour, but this was a perfect example of it that even he could appreciate.

"Black Magician. Very funny. Where's your armour, then?"

The man who claimed to be the Black Magician raised his eyebrows briefly. "I am he, but I am also another."

"What's your real name, if you're not just the Black Magician, then?" Yuugi was genuinely curious, and a little excited. Here was the key, maybe. He could unlock it all by himself--!

The Black Magician shook his head. Yuugi's shoulders slumped.

"You don't know. Or you don't have one."

"Oh, I have one," Black Magician said. He seemed shorter now than he had when he'd appeared to Yuugi not so long ago. "And I know it. But there are circumstances that will not allow me to speak it."

"You can't say anything because of the other me."

"Yes," the Black Magician agreed. Yuugi waited for the "no" that was sure to follow, but it did not come. "As for my other form, that you call 'Black Magician' as though it were a name and not a function, I appear now only in my soul-form--" except 'soul' wasn't what he said, not at all, it was only what Yuugi heard--"because I swore long ago to always protect and serve the one you call 'other me.' At present I find him to be in no danger--except, perhaps, if that charming girl manages to talk him into taking his turn on the dancing machine--and so I find it less strenuous to observe in this form. Armour has weight even when you're a spirit only, though you may not think it."

Yuugi smiled at the idea of his other self trying DDR. "So this is your soul-form?"

"After a fashion, yes. I could do without this," the Black Magician answered, and raised a hand to the collar around his neck. "I've tried to find the clasp, but there doesn't seem to be one."

"It's a buckle," Yuugi answered absently. Here." He plunked down onto the stone slab and reached for the leather band around the Magician's neck. It fell free, and the Magician sighed in relief.

"Do you always dress like me?" Yuugi asked, more curious than ever. The Magician shook his head.

"As a rule I sleep aside my master, and when I wake it's to fight," he answered. "Today's rather an exception."

Yuugi nodded. He could feel Anzu talking his other self into staying for just one more game of DDR. The Magician touched the side of his face.

"Why so bleak, little master?"

Yuugi shrugged. He knew he was being stupid--the Magician had clearly once been human, but not anymore, and even if he found a way to speak to anyone else they'd likely call themselves crazy--but he really didn't want to talk to anyone about Anzu and the complicated triangle they were in. The Magician's hand landed on Yuugi's shoulder.

"Allow me to tell you a secret I learned many aeons ago, little master," he said. "In such a circumstance as yours, there are two choices: speak, or wait. Should you speak, you will change things permanently--for better, or for worse. And if you wait, the pain will pass--but you may find yourself forever wondering what would have changed had you spoken."

"You say that like you know it for sure."

"I do," the Magician answered. "As you yourself thought, little master, I was once human, also."

Yuugi sighed and shrugged. "This is weird."

f"What, getting advice from a monster card?" Yuugi heard amusement in the tone and had to fight to keep from doing something he'd regret.

"I'm glad you find it funny. Everybody but me thinks it's funny, actually."

"I find myself only amused by your immediate acceptance of the situation, followed later by the protest, little master. Oughtn't it be the other way round?"

"Why do you keep calling me little master?" Yuugi was starting to feel decidedly antsy. His other had been incredibly quiet since Anzu agreed to leave the arcade.

"Can you not guess for yourself? You have a decidedly large amount of intelligence, little master."

Aibou! Aibou, come and see!

Yuugi's head jerked up. The Magician waved his hand toward the far side of the hall.

"My master calls you."

"Yeah, but--"

Aibou! It's incredible . . .

"You should go."

And Yuugi was standing in the hall between his soul room and his other's.

"Aibou, Anzu wants to go out for lunch to celebrate. Would you like me to tell her--"

"Whatever you want is fine. I need to chill out a little."

"Are you certain you don't-- "

"I'm sure, other me. I'll come top in ten or fifteen minutes. I just . . . need to cool off." It was stupid, in a way; Yuugi had not been the one dueling, but his blood was still up. What he really would have liked was to take a long run on the city outskirts, something that would leave him panting and hot and in need of a ride to get back, but the only people he dared take rides from were women and families, and it was the wrong time of day for that.

"I'll tell her so, then. Take your break, aibou."

"Thank you, other me."

Yuugi found himself in a place he hadn't been in forever, and yet he could have left it last five minutes ago. There was still a figure sitting on a still-upturned slab at the end of the room, and he was again dressed in Yuugi's clothes. The Magician raised a hand in greeting.

"You did well, little master."

"I didn't do anything," Yuugi protested. "It was the other me who--"

"So you think," the Magician interrupted. "But in truth, you have a strength you have not yet begun to suspect, and that resolve kept my master fighting."

"He's got plenty of strength all by himself," Yuugi began, and already the Magician was shaking his head. He conjured a cord out of thin air.

"Were you a magician when you were alive, too?" Yuugi found himself genuinely curious.

"Among other things. Watch," the Magician commanded. He pulled the cord in two. Yuugi shrugged. The Magician tucked both pieces of the cord in his hand, turned it over, and produced the cord in a single piece again. He plucked a second cord from the air, the exact twin of the first. Then he twined them together and handed them to Yuugi.

"Break them, little master."

Yuugi tugged. He felt the cords stretch . . . and then hold. "It won't break."

"Such is my master, when he is with you."

Yuugi could think of no response, and so he changed the subject. "You're wearing my clothes again."

"I am," the Magician agreed. "Had you retreated during the duel, like the little Ring-bearer--" Yuugi saw his face twist in an expression of anger. "You would have seen otherwise."

"You don't like him, do you?" Yuugi asked. "Ryou, I mean."

"I have nothing against the one you call Ryou except his foolhardiness in continuing to toy with things he has neither knowledge nor experience to understand, and such is the curse of being young. The spirit he gives form and life to is that which I despise."

"Why?" Yuugi paused. "Or can't you tell me?"

"I cannot. But I daresay that is a truth you may find out soon enough for yourself." The Magician sighed. "And you, little master, have your friends to get back to."

"What's going to happen to you?" Yuugi protested. The Magician looked very tired.

"I? I shall sleep," the Magician answered. "But fear not--I shall rise still when called on."

Yuugi nodded. Then he threw his arms around the Magician's neck, the moderate absurdity of the situation notwithstanding. "Congratulations. And thank you."

Yuugi was not a little gratified when the Magician paused, and then hugged back. "I do only my duty, little master, and hope to excel at it."

Yuugi considered wondering why the conversation should calm him when it had left him with even more questions than before, and then brushed the thought aside. The 'why' was of little importance; what mattered was that it had worked, and he could celebrate freely.

"I lost you."

"Nah," Yuugi said. "I'm right here." He squeezed closer to his other self. Yuugi had been only another lost soul floating around the Seal, but it was amazing how quickly you came to miss things like mental hugs. The other Yuugi's hold tightened.

"Yes, but you could have been here all along if I hadn't--"

Yuugi put a finger on his lips. "I said, I'm right here. It's over. I'm back. The Orichalcos is destroyed. It's never going to happen again."


Yuugi made a noise too gentle to be a snort. "Don't cry, other me. It's okay."

"It could easily have not been so."

"Yeah, well, that's an 'if,' and it didn't happen that way. So stop worrying about it."

At last his other's grip loosened. Yuugi gave him one last friendly squeeze around the middle. "Do you mind if I go say hello to someone else?"

"Why should I mind, aibou? I've been in control of your body quite long enough, I think."

"I kind of have to go through your soul room to get there."

"Consider it as yours."

Yuugi hopped off the edge of a staircase to nowhere and padded in the direction he was pretty sure he needed to be going. Being in the Seal had really messed with his sense of direction.

It turned out he'd been going in the wrong direction entirely, but it didn't matter; the person he was looking for was waiting for him anyway, leaning against a column, staff resting across his knee.

"You know, I'm starting to think you were lying about not wearing my clothes," Yuugi teased. Then he fell silent.

The figure held out his arms, and Yuugi stepped between them. The embrace was long, and silent, and through it passed more than any words could ever say.

Yuugi did not look at the figure sitting on the slab. He did not want to see what the Magician might be wearing--did not want to know if it was his standard dark purple armour, or the dark jeans and top Yuugi liked to wear outside school, or perhaps the garb of an Egyptian priest. The truth had come at last, and it hurt. It hurt.

"Little master." The voice was the same--sounded the same--but there was an import in it that had not been there before.

"So that's why you hated Bakura so much." The words sounded flat, but it was something to say.

"Yes," agreed the man for whom Yuugi no longer had an adequate name. "Thanks to you, we are all free."

"You must like that--Mahaado."

"You call me that as though it's my proper name."

"Isn't it?" Yuugi flicked his eyes up and was relieved, somehow, to see his usual free-time clothes on the other's body. "That's what Set called you."

"In life, perhaps. But I'm no longer Mahaad any more than you're Atem, little master."

"Don't call me that! I hate it, I'm not him, you know that--"

Yuugi did not want to surrender to the hug he was pulled into, but he had no energy left to resist. Saving history had a way of taking it out of a teenaged body. And so he simply lay in the Magician's arms, allowing his hair to be stroked and his tears to fall.

"He's going to have to leave now, isn't he?" Yuugi whispered. "And you, too."

"He may," the Magician answered. "That's a history not yet written."

Yuugi noticed the Magician didn't answer the second half of the question, but he didn't press for an answer.

"Yuugi? Are you coming?"

Yuugi forced a smile. "I'm not hungry, actually. I think it's the heat."

Jii-chan gave Yuugi a look. "Yuugi . . . "

"I'll eat later, I promise," Yuugi lied. "You guys go ahead, okay?"

Jii-chan gave Yuugi a final distrustful look, but left Yuugi sitting on the bed. Yuugi waited until after he was certain neither Jii-chan nor Jyonouchi was coming back, and then lay down on the bed. He grabbed a pillow and pulled it tight against his stomach. Yuugi wasn't just "not hungry"--he felt more than a little like throwing up.

Yuugi would never be entirely certain of when his eyes had closed; he knew only that he was sitting suddenly on the bed of his soul room, and that the door opened onto darkness. The deep and morbid part of him, the morbid part that existed in every human mind, urged him to go to the door and look out, to step into the darkness and see what he might find. The sane part of his mind thought that course of action was a very bad idea--a horrible idea, in fact--but there was another part, and it was to that part that Yuugi now listened. He slid off the bed and made for the door. He couldn't possibly get lost in his own soul, could he?

Five wrenching minutes later gave him the idea that yes, not only could he get lost in his own soul, he had. It was as though he were in Atem's soul room, but with no light to see by and no mental map of the place. Yuugi called out to see if he could hear an echo. There was none. Then he wondered if perhaps this was the way Atem had spent his three thousand years. If it were, Yuugi thought, then no wonder he'd gone insane.

There was a flare of light from somewhere in front of him, and Yuugi ran for it. At last, at last, back to the soul room he would never ever ever leave again--

The room was low, and dim, and filled with stone tablets. Yuugi let out a disconsolate moan.

Then he saw the figure sitting on the tablet at the far end of the room.

The figure raised its head--his head--and looked directly into Yuugi's eyes. Yuugi pounded down the hall and threw himself into a pair of arms that must surely still be weary from a fight that had been long and long. He'd lost one, was not entirely clear on why he hadn't lost both, but here was the comfort he'd sought by staying behind. A hand--a tired hand, no, an exhausted hand, Yuugi could feel that hand's exhaustion and pain when it touched him--ran weary fingers through Yuugi's hair. Yuugi nuzzled against the palm.

"I tried to let him stay with you . . . " the Magician sighed.

"You're still here."

"I am."

"Not that I'm complaining . . . " Yuugi squeezed as close as he could. "But how exactly did you pull that off?"

The Magician's other arm slid around Yuugi's waist. "Last night, while you built your deck, Atem came to me and requested that should he lose . . . I would remain behind. He saw no reason for you to lose us both, and so he released me from my vow to him contingent upon the outcome of the duel. You'd already created a place for me in your own memories, and so following the final duel I simply retreated here to stay in this form. In his mind, in the field of reeds, I'll be naught but a memory until the time we may be together again."

Yuugi rested his head against the Magician's shoulder--or tried to. Then he wrinkled his nose and raised a hand to the bruised purple helmet. "How do you take this off?"

"I cannot. Either all is removed, or none--and I've not the energy to attempt it."

Yuugi closed his eyes and got up on his knees. He put one hand on either side of the Magician's neck and concentrated very hard. His hands sank through the place where heavy purple metal had been moments before and landed on a pair of nearly-bare shoulders, instead. The sigh he heard this time was one of relief, and he sank back onto his legs.

"Thank you--Yuugi."

"No problem. I'm glad you're still here."

"And I, little--Yuugi. I find joy in being for you as I was for Atem--both subject and servant."

Yuugi shook his head against the bruised shoulder. "I'm only a--what would you call it?--a ceremonial king, I guess. I don't rule anything. You're not my subject. And I haven't got any use for a servant. But I'm always up for friends, if you'd like that."

The Magician's eyes dropped, but not before Yuugi saw something telling in his eyes. And so Yuugi got up on his knees again, turned the Magician's head with a single gentle hand, and kissed him.

He held out a kind of vain hope that maybe the Magician would take over, because Yuugi had no idea what he was doing. Instead he was rewarded first with a soft touch against his face, and then he was shoved violently backward. Yuugi toppled off the stone slab.

"What was that for?"

The Magician refused to look at him, and Yuugi wondered if maybe he'd made a very big mistake. Then he saw the twist in the Magician's body--a turning-away not in disgust, but in shame. Yuugi reached for the Magician's hand, a fist clenched on a trembling knee.

"Hey . . . "

"I apologise for overstepping the bound I ought to have heeded," the Magician said, his voice trembling, and Yuugi climbed back onto the slab. He wrapped the Magician's shoulders in a warm hug.

"You didn't overstep anything. I--I've kind of wanted you to," Yuugi admitted. "I just--never knew it could actually happen. Because we're both kind of not in a physical form, you know."

"The amazing thing about a soul room is that all things are possible within one."

Yuugi squeezed the hand he was touching, and then reached out with his free hand for the Magician's face. "Hey. Look at me."

Yuugi hated the look in the Magician's eyes--sad, and tired, and--what? Resigned, Yuugi thought. That's what he is.

Yuugi reached for the Magician's other hand. "Is this what you want?"

The Magician's eyes dropped. "I wish only to serve as you see--"

"Will you stop that?" Yuugi was starting to feel annoyed. He tried to keep it out of his voice, at least. "I didn't ask for a form letter. I want to know what you want."

The Magician paused, then shook his head. "My place isn't to care for my own desires, master Yuugi."

Yuugi ignored the title; he had the feeling the Magician--and Mahaado before him--had spent so long taking orders that the "master" was permanently engraved in his speech. Instead he addressed what he saw as the greater problem.

"Maybe that's how things were in Egypt, but that's not how they are here. So will you answer me, or do I have to try to find out if spirits have soul rooms?"

There was a tense pause, and then Yuugi felt the Magician's mouth, soft and hesitant, on his own. Yuugi locked his hands behind the Magician's neck and kissed back. A pair of hands rose to the buckle on Yuugi's neck and fumbled with it until it opened. One of the hands resumed its place in Yuugi's own; the other caressed his neck. The kiss quickly grew hungry on both sides, and Yuugi recognised it for what it was--a searching and a taking of comfort on both sides. Both of them had lost a good friend only a few hours ago. Yuugi might never see him again--what were the rules about the Egyptian afterlife? Did modern people go there, too?--and the Magician had given up his chance for rest and solace at least for now. He would see Yuugi grow old and die, and only then would he finally be free to go. Yes--they both needed something, and perhaps this wasn't it, but it was as close as they could get.

Yuugi felt the telltale stiffness in his spine and tumbled them both back onto the slab. The Magician pulled away, obviously alarmed.

"No pressure," Yuugi assured him. "I was just getting a crick in my neck. Why do you have to be so tall, anyway?"

The Magician let out a tired chuckle. Yuugi kissed him again and then, feeling daring, slipped a hand under the hem of the shirt that was really his, anyway. He was only a few short seconds from tugging it off--why not? In what Yuugi still thought of as "top," it would appear to all the world he'd simply closed his eyes to rest them and then fallen asleep--when the Magician pulled away with a hiss. Yuugi drew back, wondering if he'd done something wrong, and then he saw the bruises peeking out from beneath the black hem.

"You're hurt!"

"They fade," the Magician answered. "And I'm in no danger from them, as you must know . . . they appear physical, but such wounds cannot harm a spirit."

"Can't kill a spirit, you mean," Yuugi corrected absently, tugging the shirt over the Magician's head. He saw what his mind registered as countless cuts, welts, bruises--all only on the skin he could see--and felt a deep pang of shame. He had been the cause of this. His companion was injured, exhausted--and what had Yuugi done? Run to him for comfort without the slightest thought for the other's injuries and grief. Little matter. Yuugi could not fix the situation, but he could make it a bit better, at least.

Yuugi squeezed his eyes shut and concentrated. He heard a bewildered laugh, an almost sure sign he'd succeeded. Yuugi opened his eyes, and yes--there was the bowl of warm water and the cloth, just as he'd envisioned them. Yuugi dipped the washcloth, wrung it out, and touched it gently to the first gash he saw. The Magician jumped.

"Yuugi, you needn't--"

"I know what you said," Yuugi told him. "Doesn't matter. You'll feel better if they're cleaned up, won't you?"

Yuugi could see the Magician wanting to shrug. Cleaning to prevent infection was pointless; washing to ensure a cleanly healed wound, equally ridiculous. There was no physical reason to feel better. And yet to be touched, to be cared for . . .

Yuugi wiped away a trickle of blood. "Just let me, okay?" Yuugi asked, rinsing the cloth. He was pleased to see the dirt and blood disappear and leave the water clean. "Just let me take care of you for once."

Yuugi followed map upon map of injuries new and old, cuts and scars, washing away blood and sweat and grime. The last traces disappeared at last. Yuugi put the cloth in the bowl.

"Anything I need to check out under here?" Yuugi touched the waistband of the dark jeans. Then he realised how his words could be taken, and he blushed. The Magician only sighed, his eyes long ago closed.

"Something on my left leg, I think . . . on the calf, if my master insists upon it."

"Your master does," Yuugi answered dryly. He was trying to be a good sport about the whole master thing, but it was still trying its hardest to get under his skin. Yuugi went for the Magician's leg and rolled up the jean cuff. Yuugi found the gash, and cleaned it. Then he'd cleaned everything, and there was no excuse to continue. Yuugi put the washcloth back in the bowl and watched them both vanish. Then, heeding some old and instinctual impulse, he lowered his head to the Magician's shoulder and kissed the deep bruise there.

Yuugi's mind still registered the Magician's response as a hiss, although this time there was no jerking away. Yuugi drew his lips away from the red-and-purple flesh and then, driven by an impulse he did not understand, kissed the side of the Magician's neck, instead. A dazed and wandering hand came to rest on Yuugi's shoulder. Encouraged, Yuugi opened his mouth to taste. The Magician's skin did not feel like normal skin, but then, Yuugi reflected, he hadn't had real skin in roughly three thousand years, give or take a few. Another of those quiet sounds, and Yuugi's mind recognised it for what it was: a gasp. Yuugi drew back.

"Are you okay?"

A nod. No words. Yuugi gave the Magician a look.

"Don't lie," Yuugi said. He was vaguely and painfully aware of sounding like his mother. "Did it hurt?"

There was a long pause. Yuugi could see two conflicting statements warring for right to the Magician's tongue--the stock servant's answer, and the answer that more truly reflected his opinion on the matter. Yuugi did not press; pressing, in this case, would only do damage. At last the answer came.

" . . . It pains me the more that you'd withdraw."

Yuugi grinned and went back to the Magician's neck. The situation brought a kind of thoughtlessness that Yuugi was happy to embrace. His grief was too big to deal with all at once. Here it was easier to accept that when he went top again, there would be no Atem offering friendly support and chatter (and the occasional joke or comment calculated specifically to make Yuugi blush) in the back of Yuugi's mind.

Eventually Yuugi realised that paying much more attention to such a small section of skin was liable to leave more marks he didn't want to be the cause of, and so he planted his hands on the slab on either side of the Magician's head and pushed himself downward to the next relatively unmarked patch of skin he found--just beneath the breastbone. Yuugi traced his fingers over it and wondered that he could feel the steady flutter of a heartbeat beneath.

The Magician's hand found the scar on the back of Yuugi's neck--relic of a rogue firecracker when Yuugi had been nine--and stroked it gently. Yuugi squirmed. It was easily the most sensitive piece of skin on his body from the hips up. Once upon a time, before he'd finished the Puzzle, there had been boys in school who'd loved to torture Yuugi by getting ice cubes, or cold drinks from their bento boxes, and holding them against the scar just when Yuugi was least expecting it. It had never failed to make him shriek in an embarrassingly girlish manner and then clap both hands to his neck. Yuugi had never thought to associate the scar with the possibility of pleasure, but when it was touched that way--a light brush that was almost next-door to a tickle--it felt very nice indeed.

Yuugi squirmed downward, finding new places to kiss and touch. He was starting to seriously enjoy the kind of control he had--just once, he was the one who got to call the shots. He'd just got past the Magician's navel when a hand landed on the back of his neck.

"No more, master Yuugi, please."

Yuugi considered ignoring the Magician's request. Somebody really had to teach this--man? spirit? monster? All of the above?--to loosen up. Then the fingers tightened--not on Yuugi's skin, but close to it--and he stopped. The Magician sighed. Yuugi sent a glance over the long expanse of chest and stomach toward the face at the other end and found himself shocked to see tears. Then he realised where they were, and what he'd been getting ready to do, and felt himself turn red. He scrambled back up the slab, but didn't lie down. And so close to this afternoon--was he really so heartless? Was this the real Yuugi, here in this room?

Yuugi was too absorbed in worry to even register his own movement as the Magician drew him gently down and into a warm embrace.

"You worry too much, master Yuugi."

Yuugi shook his head. "I was going to--"

"I'd noticed. I wished only to keep you from an action you might regret."

"Yeah, but--"

The Magician put one long, long finger on Yuugi's lips. "I understand." He brushed Yuugi's fringe back with gentle fingers. "Sleep, master Yuugi. Take your rest and comfort."

Yuugi nodded and curled closer. The Magician ran his hand through Yuugi's hair again.

"Yuugi. Hey, Yuugi!"

Anzu put a hand on Jyonouchi's shoulder, and then pressed her free finger to her lips. Jyonouchi looked first at her, and then at the small figure on the bed. Yuugi made a quiet sleeper's noise and buried his face against the pillow he was holding.

"Anzu, he's got my pillow."

"Go get one of mine to bring over here. Let him go." Anzu handed Jyonouchi her key, sat down on the bed, and began working the laces on Yuugi's trainers so she could pull the blanket up over his legs.

She was alone when Yuugi's hair slid back from his brow as though from an invisible touch, but she thought nothing of it. It could have just been the angle of his face.

"Sleep well, Yuugi," she whispered.

And somewhere deep in the recesses of his own mind, cradled gently in a pair of arms belonging to a man long ago changed into someone else, Yuugi did.