Title: Break the Sky
Rating: T, just to be safe.
Summary: When the pharaoh looked back on it, he never really understood quite how it happened. All he knew was that in one second, Yugi was there – and in the next, he was gone.
Spoilers: Doma/Orichalcos arc.
Pairings: Hints of puzzleshipping. And that's… kind of it, really.
Words: 6372, according to OpenOffice.
Disclaimer: One little, two little, three little pharaohs, four little, five little, six little pharaohs, seven little, eight little, nine little pharaohs, and many more and none belong to me.
A/N: Based on the dub, because for some reason my computer likes playing those clips more than it does the subs. D: And I've tweaked bits of the dialogue: edited some words, added a few lines. So I guess this is sort of AU, in a few parts.
Since practically every puzzleshipper and their moms have written one, here is my own one-shot that revolves around the Doma/Orichalcos arc with lots of YnY/Y. (Well, at least, there are very heavy hints of puzzleshipping. But you can see it as brotherly affection if you wish.) Basically, these are just missing scenes and perspectives from season four that follow different people's thoughts after Yugi has left.
For Kaoru/Hime no Ichigo, because I know she loves puzzleshipping. And fanfiction. And angst. Possibly in that order?
Happy birthday, dear! :D
Break the Sky
Tristan had never pegged the pharaoh as one for practical jokes. And neither had he ever thought Yugi would pull a prank like this – Yugi, of all people, please – because this wasn't funny in the slightest. So when Yugi came back, and switched out with the pharaoh again, Tristan promised himself he wouldn't wave it off and forgive him. It wasn't funny. It wasn't even amusing.
He told himself he wouldn't laugh.
Tristan watched as Yugi – no, it was the pharaoh: his voice was deeper, features sharper – pounded his fits to the ground again and again, as if sobbing and falling to pieces was any way to get back what you wanted. He was really playing the part, sure. But Tristan didn't believe him. Yugi would pop up any minute now, reassure them all that none of it was real, that everything had been a lie. Because the pharaoh hadn't lost Yugi's soul.
Because Yugi couldn't be gone.
Joey made a strange noise next to him; it sounded like he was trying to say something, but the words had clogged up in his throat so that all that came out was an odd sort of grunting sound. The blonde merely swallowed instead.
"That's not right," Duke shouted. "That can't be right. It's not. Yugi isn't gone, I'm sure he's just… he's not gone." He shook his head, possibly to reassure the rest of them, but most likely just himself. "He's not gone."
The pharaoh did not move.
Joey's voice cracked when he finally spoke. "Yugi…" He swallowed. "There's gotta be a loophole."
"I can't believe this," Tristan said, shaking his head and taking a step away from the figure on the ground. "I won't believe this."
"Believe what?" Duke responded, and even though Tristan could tell he didn't want an answer, he gave him one nonetheless.
"That – he's – " He sighed angrily, running a hand through his brown hair. "Look, I'm sure it's just a misunderstanding. Yugi's in the Millennium Puzzle, hiding or waiting for the right moment to pop out or something – "
"You think this is another one of his games?" Joey demanded. "You think Yugi would do something like that?"
"Well, what's our other option?" Tristan shot back. "That he's gone? He can't be gone. He's Yugi Mutou. He's not a three thousand-year-old spirit, he's not an ancient Egyptian pharaoh – he's Yugi. Yugi can't go."
"I don't think he had a choice, T," Joey said quietly.
"He did." The broken voice came from the figure on the ground, choked out between sobs and shuddered breaths. "He did."
Duke watched the pharaoh, softly asking, "What do you mean?"
The pharaoh's body hunched up, shoulders tensed as his voice responded with fury. "I played the Seal. I sacrificed our monsters. I traded everything I had in for power – I ended up losing – it was all me!"
There were a few moments of silence. He was a damn good actor, Tristan told himself firmly, but by now these reassurances and his denial were less effective, and reality was starting to finally sink in.
"He pushed me out of the way," the pharaoh continued; his voice was softer now, and Tristan almost had to lean forward to hear it. "He… I made the mistake… and he pushed me out of the way. He sacrificed himself. For me." He spat the last word out like venom.
"…Yug left so that you wouldn't have to," Joey concluded quietly, and the pharaoh nodded bitterly.
"It's not fair," he moaned, pounding the earth once more for good measure. "He shouldn't've… it should've been me… I can't…"
It's ironic, Tristan mused as the cold truth finally settled. The one person we've always taken for granted. The one person who always made everyone smile when we needed it, when we needed him. Why'd it have to be him? Why Yugi?
It should've been him. The pharaoh was absolutely right – he should've left, because Yugi didn't deserve that. Yugi was better than that. Yugi wasn't the one who kept bringing them misery, kept putting everyone in danger – the pharaoh was. The pharaoh did. He should've gone.
Tristan couldn't understand why he was so angry. But he told himself that he had good reasons to be. He was angry at the pharaoh, for being an idiot and playing that damn card; he was angry at Yugi, for leaving them all right when they needed him the most; he was angry at that stupid motorcycle gang, and their stupid Orichalcos cards and their stupid Dartz ringleader for just being stupid –
And he was angry at himself, because he knew that he would've given up his own soul if it meant not having to lose Yugi's. And Tristan hated the fact that he never even got the chance.
He hated the Orichalcos. He hated Dartz. He hated Raphael, and the city of Atlantis, and Duel Monsters, and the Millennium Items, and the Nameless Pharaoh, and Yugi Mutou for leaving, actually leaving –
But at that moment, there was only one Yugi: the Yugi that was crying again, letting out great heaving sobs that somehow persuaded him to drop his anger, if only for the moment. Right then, there was only one Yugi that he walked over to, bending down on his own knees and hesitantly placing a hand on his shoulder, because as much of a jerk the pharaoh had been, he still looked so lost without Yugi; because the pharaoh just needed someone to stand beside him. Tristan wasn't Yugi Mutou, and he wasn't going to fool himself into pretending that he could fill the spot in the pharaoh that was reserved solely for his partner. But he could still be there.
Joey and Duke soon followed his lead; the blonde got down on his knees, wrapping an arm around the pharaoh's shoulders as he fought down tears as well; and Duke stood in the background, not touching but still there, because sometimes, just sometimes, that was enough.
He said he was sorry. He said Yugi, her darling, her boyfriend, was gone, and it was all his fault – and all he could say was that he was sorry.
Sorry? Rebecca didn't think so. Not nearly as sorry as he should be. For not nearly enough reasons why.
Rebecca knew that she was never considered a true part of Yugi's and Téa's group, but she wasn't a stranger to any of them. She knew how much Yugi meant to everyone – and she most certainly knew how much Yugi meant to her.
So he was sorry for taking Yugi away. But Rebecca didn't think this apparently once-great, all-powerful pharaoh really got the big picture. He didn't understand that by betraying Yugi's trust, he'd betrayed their own in him. He didn't understand that things couldn't be the same again. Not after this.
She may not have been a part of their group, but she knew the way the world worked. She wasn't an idiot. She knew.
Rebecca clutched Téa's white jacket harder, staining the sleeves with her tears. She could hear the pharaoh saying something in his grief, and Joey yelling at him before what sounded like a rough fist met the soft flesh of skin – and even though she knew that punches hurt, she also knew that they weren't nearly enough to match the pain of losing someone like Yugi. Someone who was so much more irreplaceable than the rest of them that no one ever thought he'd go.
It was finally raining.
Ever since arriving in California, Téa had been waiting for this. It was way too dry in this part of the world, so humid and disgusting and too damn hot. She'd known that it would be warm, but there in the desert, she probably could've cooked an egg on the sidewalk in a matter of minutes. It was too scorching for anything except staying inside and turning on the AC as high as it could go. But for the first time since they'd flown in from Domino, a cloud rolled in front of the sun, turning everything that was warm and golden cold.
It was finally raining. The drops seemed to be in such a hurry to fall from the sky, rushing down in angry sheets, shoving each other out of the way to be sucked up first by the parched ground.
It was raining. Finally raining. And if it had happened yesterday, nothing could have kept her from running outside and doing a wild barefoot dance; even on the hard, barren ground of the state of California.
It was raining. Finally raining.
But Téa didn't feel one bit like dancing.
Not now. Not ever again.
"My hand kinda hurts."
Tristan barely moved his head. "Yeah?"
"Yeah." Joey plopped himself down next to the steps behind him, staring out at the expanse of land behind the Hawkins' trailer. "I haven't used it to punch in a while."
"Losing your touch?"
"Nah." The blonde examined the knuckles, watching the skin shift as he stretched it. "I think I'm just… not used to using it for violence, anymore."
"Only for playing cards."
"Heh. Yeah. Guess so."
Pregnant silence settled between the two with not even the sound of summer crickets chirping in the distance, like they should have been. Joey frowned. In Domino, there were always crickets chirping in warm summer nights like this. There were always stars – at the very least, one or two – twinkling in the sky above, just out of reach. They weren't in the city anymore. Weren't you supposed to be able to see the stars, out in the middle of nowhere?
The air was thick and still smelled like recent rain. Joey took a deep breath before releasing it, his body sagging down in exhaustion he hadn't been aware of until then.
"Know what time it is?"
Tristan checked his watch. "Almost one."
"Mmm." A beat. "We should probably get some sleep."
"Yeah, we should."
Neither of the two made a move to do so, however, and after a minute, Joey spoke again and all mentionings of time and sleep had fled. "I miss him already."
Tristan didn't speak for a moment, and just as the blonde started to wonder if he'd heard him, his friend replied quietly, "I still can't really… wrap my mind around it."
"About Yugi losing, or Yugi leaving?"
"I was thinking about the second, but… now that you mention the first, that's a little hard to believe, too."
"Yeah." Joey paused. "Well, I guess that was actually just the pharaoh. And maybe that was why he lost."
Tristan turned his head at this, looking at his best friend in confusion. "What?"
"Yeah, you know." Joey ran a hand through his hair, glancing over at Tristan for confirmation of understanding. "Like, the pharaoh and Yugi are partners, right? They do stuff like a team. Together. But when the pharaoh pushed Yugi away and played the Seal of Orichalcos, it was like… he cut their bond, or something. He was alone in that duel, and he didn't have Yugi's help. That could've been why he lost."
Tristan thought about that. "That makes sense."
Joey nodded once. "I guess… what was that quote… 'Whatever doesn't try to kill you only makes you stronger'?"
"Nah." Tristan scrunched his face, thinking. "Whatever doesn't try to kill you is usually only responsible for what does."
"That wasn't it, man."
"I know. I changed it."
"You allowed to do that?"
"What, is it copyrighted, or something?"
"You guys still up?"
The two turned at the sound of Duke Devlin coming out of the house to sit on the porch step next to Joey. He eased his legs out. "Hey."
"Hey," they greeted back in unison, and Joey briefly wondered if it were just coincidence that they were all awake at one in the morning or if he and Tristan had just been talking too loudly to not gather attention.
"So I've been thinking, Joey," Duke began, "since I can't seem to be able to sleep… if you're going to be the leader, you really need to work out a plan soon. A real one."
Joey looked at him, eyebrows furrowing. "Leader? What're you talking about?"
"Yugi's gone, the pharaoh's a wreck, and Téa's too busy worrying about everybody that she doesn't have the time to lead everybody," Duke listed, ticking off his fingers.
"You're forgetting someone, Devlin," a grumpy voice came from Joey's right.
"Sorry, Tristan, but you don't really play Duel Monsters." Duke gave a half-apologetic smile and Tristan conceded agreement; Duel Monsters was what this was about, after all.
"Well… what about you? Or Rebecca?" Joey asked.
His companion raised an eyebrow. "You're joking, right? Rebecca and I aren't part of the original gang. We weren't there from the beginning, when Yugi beat Kaiba and Duelist Kingdom and all. We don't know you guys as well as you do yourselves. But you do."
Joey stared down at the ground, kicking a stray stone. "…What if I don't want to be the leader?"
"I don't think Yugi ever wanted to be a leader either, Joey." He looked over at the blonde. "Tough break, yeah?"
"…Yeah." Joey looked up at the sky again, searching for one star, any star, to shine in the blackness overhead, and the darkness to come. "It really is."
She turned. The pharaoh nearly flinched when she glared as she realized it was him speaking.
"May I have a word with you?" he asked politely.
Rebecca was young, not even a real teenager yet. But she wasn't completely immature. So instead of pouting and ignoring him, her blonde head nodded stiffly, and at his lead, they walked away from the rest of their friends where they were getting ready to leave for the train station. He led her beyond the trailer before turning around, meeting her cold gaze as firmly as he could.
"I wanted to – "
"What do you want?" she snapped. "You've already said Yugi's gone. I don't think news can get any worse than that, and I don't need to hear it again."
The pharaoh knew that he deserved her harsh tone, so he ignored it grudgingly but without complaint. He took a deep breath before beginning. "I need to tell you that Yugi let himself be taken away."
Her eyes widened slightly behind her half-glasses, though the glare was still somewhat there.
"He told me that the Seal only needed one of us… so he let it take him, instead of me." The words were coming easier now, he found, once he'd gotten started. "He took my place, Rebecca. He didn't have to."
She looked like she was about to say something snarky – but he couldn't handle any more "It's your faults," "It should've been you," "I'd rather have Yugi"s, so he cut her off.
"I don't believe he realized the exact impact his decisions would have," he continued. "I don't think he understood how much I respect him, how much I depend on him in the same way he depends on me… how much I need him. And when he left, sacrificed himself for me – Rebecca, it was… it was absolutely horrifying. I… I can't feel his presence in my mind, anymore, and that… I…" His palms felt sweaty; he clenched them a few times, stretching to flex the muscles. "This is, I suppose, my punishment for playing the Seal… I got what I deserved."
Rebecca watched him, all traces of hostility on her face having fled.
"I won't ask you to forgive me, Rebecca, because I know how hard it must be for you to even consider such an option. I… still don't even know how it happened. All I remember was the Seal in my hand, like it was calling out to me, promising me victory if I played it because I could be – I would be – unbeatable with it on my side of the field… and when it betrayed me, I didn't even care, because the disbelief I had felt out of losing the duel with Raphael was so quickly replaced with the disbelief of losing Yugi. Until that point, I'd lost myself to the Orichalcos.
"But I'm back now, from wherever I was. And… I know that I cannot ask you to forgive me, Rebecca. I just need you to know how truly sorry I am."
It took a few minutes. He wasn't even staring at her anymore; his eyes were lowered to the ground, telling himself he wouldn't cry again because he was strong, and he didn't show weakness like that – so it still took a while for him to notice the heat from another body. He blinked at the blonde hair underneath his chin as Rebecca wrapped her arms tightly around his waist, face pressed into his shirt.
"Bring him back," she told him in a tone that sounded as if it was intended to be firm and harsh but what ended up sounding only broken, defeated. "You have to bring him back, and then… I'll forgive you. But I can't… forget what you did. Just… rescue him, and make everything all right again. Please, just bring him back…"
The pharaoh was not used to physical contact; not from anyone but his partner, at least. It was… strange. Rebecca's hug was not meant to comfort him but more as a hope for him to do so to her. And though he was not used to this sort of thing, for reasons unknown, he still wrapped his arms around her too, making promises he wasn't sure if he could keep and assuring the both of them as much as he could that they would be fine without Yugi Mutou, at least for the time being, no matter how much they needed him.
It was possibly one of the most terrifying sights she had ever seen.
If she wasn't sure he was going there anyway, Téa would've damned Weevil Underwood to Hell a thousand times over. How dare he. How dare he?
"You'll pay for that." Four words spoken with such malice, such genuine hate, that for a moment Téa did not recognize the brave and noble pharaoh that stood before her. Yugi had always said that the spirit inside the Millennium Puzzle was kind, gentle, compassionate – she believed that. She'd seen the passion he held for his loved ones first-hand, so she knew that this could not be the pharaoh they had grown to know and befriend.
But it couldn't be Yugi, either. Yugi was gone. And Yugi would never say such words, with such cruel intentions –
"You'll pay dearly."
Please, let this be a dream. Please. Please.
But dreams did not hurt like hearing these words did, like seeing the pharaoh like this – this could not be a dream, because if it were a dream, then the pharaoh would not be dueling Weevil Underwood on top of a speeding train the middle of a desert in California. She would not be clinging to the cart, trying not to lose her balance and slip and fall to her death, because that would most certainly not be the way to go when they all needed each other now, more than ever –
If this were a dream, then Yugi would not be gone.
Though as much as she missed Yugi, she knew that she had no reason to grieve. Téa watched the pharaoh when he played a card she had not yet heard of – Berserker Soul, it was called – and as he discarded the cards in his hand and began to draw from the deck, she wondered if this was the true pharaoh, the person hidden from the world when Yugi was there to cover him up. She wondered if this was what he was really like. And she wondered how long he had been that way.
No. No, this wasn't him. It couldn't be the real him.
And as Téa ran forward, stopping the pharaoh from attacking again because Weevil was already too far gone, and trying hard not to cry from the wind rushing in her face and the lost hope that the pharaoh might never be all right until this was all over, she realized that she had no right to miss Yugi. Not when another still did. Not when there was someone else that needed him far, far more.
It had to be the Orichalcos. Or the dark magic filling the air in Death Valley. It had to be something. Because Yugi wasn't an angry person; he was sweet, loving, kind. There had to be some kind of mistake. This couldn't be Yugi. It had to be the Orichalcos. This wasn't his partner.
"I don't need your support. I place this face-down."
But the pharaoh's reassurances to himself did not comfort him when Yugi ordered the attack; they did not make him feel any better when Yugi insulted him again, shoving his mistakes back into his face. They didn't help at all. This was really Yugi.
"You've already shown me who you really are: an evil pharaoh who cares only about himself! Face the facts – you didn't care what happened to me so long as you had power. Now it's my turn…"
Yugi, partner, I didn't mean it. I'm sorry, I really, truly am –
"It sounds like you're starting to catch on; aren't you, your highness?"
No, he couldn't. He wouldn't.
But he did, and within seconds, the Seal of Orichalcos had surrounded the playing field. The pharaoh wanted to yelled out, try to stop Yugi from making the same mistake he had – but Yugi had said it himself. It was too late.
"Pha-roah! You know what happens next…"
He attacked, first with Celtic Guardian and then with Dark Magician Girl. The added bonus from the Seal gave them the same mark upon their foreheads, the same chilling red-eyed glare in their eyes as Yugi now possessed.
I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…
Queen's Knight attacked. Dark Magician Girl again. Celtic Guardian, once more; and the pharaoh cringed as the incorporable sword passed through his body.
"It hurts, doesn't it? And it only gets worse. Soon, you'll be locked away forever – where you belong!"
Swords of Revealing Light. Three turns to talk some sense into Yugi.
"Your swords mean nothing – I have a card that can blast right though them. You should've known that – it's a card you've played before."
Catapult Turtle. No, please, Yugi. Don't play it, please, this isn't like you, I'm so sorry, I just want you back –
"I bet this is what you've wished for. Me out of the way, so you get your own body, all to yourself. Don't deny it, pharaoh – isn't that just what you've always wanted? Isn't it?"
Yes. Yes. But not like this. Oh, Ra, I'm sorry. Yes.
Yugi sacrificed Queen's Knight to launch an attack. The pharaoh told himself he deserved this: he deserved Yugi's revenge, even if he never thought Yugi was ever one to take it; he deserved all of Yugi's hate and rage, because in the battle with Raphael, he had lost so much more than one lousy duel.
…But if he lost this one, there was no way Yugi would ever be saved.
"So what? You're evil, remember? Last time, you didn't care who suffered."
I'm so sorry, Yugi. I know you hate me, I know I deserve this, I know I don't have any right to –
Another attack launched, this one with Dark Magician Girl. Game point.
– I'm sorry. You're my partner, my light, my everything that matters, and I'm sorry I have to do this for you, always for you –
"I activate the trap card, Divine Wind – !"
– I will rescue you, Yugi, and I will make things right again, because you deserve so much better than this, and I'm so sorry –
Yugi dropped to the ground. His Life Points clicked to zero.
…No. No, he'd made a mistake. Yugi… no. No. "YUGI!"
He'd imagined, when he finally held Yugi in his arms, that his partner would be warm. He imagined that it would be a happy occasion, when the both of them were fine and one of them was not gone, and that the smile Yugi gave him would not break his heart even further.
"You passed the test, pal…"
Yugi, Yugi, why? He'd been acting, the pharaoh knew now – he'd hidden behind a mask of hate to make sure his yami could do what he was supposed to do, to make sure he could win the duel, because that was what was best for the both of them. That was what was meant to happen.
And if things were meant to happen, then they would; no matter if he understood the reasoning or not.
But the pharaoh wanted to understand. He wanted to know why Yugi had to leave, why he had to go, because it couldn't have been the right thing for Yugi to go away. Because Yugi should have stayed.
Because Yugi could get along fine if he was gone, couldn't he?
"You acted like a true hero…"
This couldn't be the end. He had defeated the darkness in his heart by defeating Yugi, that's what he was told – but he didn't feel any happier, any lighter. Yugi was still gone, no matter how many times he beat his darkness, and that would never change until he found Dartz and defeated him.
The pharaoh didn't want it to end like this. He wanted Yugi to stay – a little longer, a minute more, as much as he could – he needed Yugi to stay, because he couldn't do this by himself; not alone, not anymore –
"Don't give up this fight." His body was glowing, losing its weight and feeling. "Remember: I'm always with you…"
But it wasn't the same. And it wouldn't be. Not until he got him back.
"I'll save you!"
And he was crying again, though trying very hard not to, because he was a pharaoh and pharaohs did not show weakness; but he found that he didn't care. Sometimes it was all right, he figured, to let it out. To show the world that you missed him too badly not to let the tears fall, because that was the only way anyone would really get it, was if you cried. That was the only way they could even begin to understand.
"No matter what it takes…"
His arms tingled with the recent memory of a smaller body pressed against his own. And as he cried, listening to only the sounds of the his voice echoing in the valley around him, the pharaoh could have sworn that he felt a little emptier than before.
As a rule, Seto Kaiba tried to avoid interacting with lunatics. Which was fairly hard to do, considering that the world was full of them; and also how, over the past few years, he had been frequently crossing paths with Yugi and the Geek Squad, who seemed to have some sort of lunatic magnet embedded in their skulls. Normally, he ignored them and moved on. But unfortunately, this became harder and harder to do: these wackos continued to pull him and his company and his brother into their problems – so somehow, he found himself in the midst of a duel with another idiot that apparently wanted to destroy the world.
Normally, Seto wouldn't give a damn. He knew there would always be morons who would always try to do things that were always moronic, but this particular moron was trying to mess with their heads. Not like he wasn't used to that – it'd been the story of his life, lately – but, like always, it was screwing with Yugi, and Yugi was his teammate. If he went down, made a stupid mistake just because he wasn't thinking straight – then Seto would go down, too.
And damn him to Hell if Yugi Mutou screwed this up for him.
Thing was, Dartz had Yugi himself pictured as one of those soldiers of his. It made no sense whatsoever, but Yugi – the one standing next to him, the one that always seemed taller and cockier and more wise-ass than usual – seemed really upset. Which was all fine and great, but they couldn't win if he was being a wuss.
"Recognize some familiar faces, pharaoh?"
And what was with all of this 'pharaoh' crap? That had been cute in Battle City for about five seconds, but the joke was running itself into the ground. Egyptian pharaohs were long dead and gone. They could rot in Hell, too, for all he cared.
It was too soft for anyone else to hear it, but Seto did and glanced sideways at his dueling partner, a little pissed at being held up but not ticked off enough to not notice how shaken Yugi appeared to be.
…Damn himself to Hell for even considering this "encouragement talk" crap – but it might be the only thing that might get Yugi's head back into the game.
"Here's the good news, Yugi." Kaiba leaned back, crossing long arms over his chest. "Everyone's scared. And the thing they're scared of most is missing an opportunity." He jerked his head toward Dartz. "Mr. Atlantis over here knows you believe in fairy-tales, so he's obviously going to pull every mind game he knows to get you to think this duel is about more than Duel Monsters and Kaiba Corporation.
"Now, you can believe whatever the hell you want. If you think those are really your pathetic friends and that deranged wash-out Pegasus over there, then be my guest. Tampering with someone's mind is a messy business that involves lots of cheating, lots of dirty tricks. But I don't care if you can think straight, play straight, or wipe your own ass – we are going to win. If that means destroying that row of soldiers – which, in this case, it does – then so be it."
The only acknowledgment Yugi gave was a very small and brief nod after a moment or two of silence. He still looked upset (Seto sniffed at this offhandedly), but some of the fire was back in his eyes. He knew as well as Seto did that losing this duel was not an option.
Whatever the hell his problem is, Seto mused, he'd better get over it soon. I will not allow my company to shatter completely at the hands of Yugi Mutou, just because he couldn't suck it up and duel like a man.
He considered their options. At the rate this duel was proceeding, either Yugi would be their downfall, or Seto himself would lose his own concentration while trying to pick up the alleged King of Games's own slack.
Either Yugi had lost something critical to his past victories, or he had lost all drive toward winning this duel.
And Seto wasn't quite sure which was worse.
He couldn't explain it, but something just felt right when he came back.
It was his personal soul room, sure. He was supposed to feel at home inside it, feel comfortable, no matter what was happening in the outside world. Visits here were like little vacations from reality that were nice, every so often, but were often like real vacations: you knew it was unavoidable and you knew you had to do it, but going back outside to real life was still such a pain when it finally came around.
And the pharaoh had left his body in the middle of an all-out war between the Orichalcos Leviathan and the realm of Duel Monsters, so Yugi wasn't exactly rushing to get back to reality any time soon.
But something was off.
Yugi walked over to a wall, pressing his hand against it. It was different, somehow, than before. A difference not in the way it felt but the way it made him feel. Cold, empty, lonely – as if this were a soul room for someone without a soul.
Yugi frowned. In a way, that was exactly what this room had been, for a while: locked up from everything, hidden away until he came back and opened it up again. For himself. For his yami.
Was he here? Or was he still in charge of their body? Would he still want to speak with him, or would he consider the war outside a bigger priority at the moment?
Well, Yugi wanted to speak with him, at any rate. He needed reassurance that he was there, and that he was really back, because reuniting with the pharaoh again was as good a confirmation as any that this wasn't just some made-up dream when he was still floating around inside his bubble.
Yugi's hand shook when he opened the door to the corridor outside, nervously eying the door opposite him with apprehension.
Please be there.
He raised a hand to knock but the door opened anyway, sliding open smoothly and silently to allow him inside the pharaoh's inner chambers.
Yugi swallowed, taking a step past the doorframe. "…Pharaoh?"
He had to try again. Perhaps he just hadn't heard his first call. Yugi walked in a bit further, footsteps loud against the floor. "Pharaoh!"
The sound echoed against the cold walls, bouncing against doors and hallways and spiraling up and around him in a never-ending maze of pathways and secrets. But the walls did not carry back a response.
Maybe he doesn't want to talk to me, Yugi reasoned, though a part of him internally broke at the thought. Maybe he figures we should take care of the Leviathan first…
He turned around slowly, giving the pharaoh's soul-room one last look before heading back to the doorway.
"I thought that I was imagining things." It was the pharaoh that was standing next to the entrance out into the hallway, arms crossed loosely as he leaned slightly on the doorframe. "I thought that it couldn't be you, because you'd been gone for so long that I was getting used to the feeling. And that… terrified me."
He clenched his fists, a saddened expression crossing over his face before turning to look at the floor. "I thought that you wouldn't want to talk to me. I thought that you would lock me up here, or throw away the Puzzle, because we both know that I deserve it." He shook his head slowly, closing his eyes. "I never thought that you would actually come looking for me…"
Yugi remained silent.
"I never thought that your soul room was the first place that you wanted to come to, because going to your soul room mean reconnecting with me, and after what I've done there couldn't be any way that you would possibly want to do that."
Yugi took a step forward, but the pharaoh did not notice; his eyes were closed, blocking out all possibilities of direct rejection, immediate hostility.
"And I know that there is no way that I can properly ask for forgiveness, because what I did was unforgivable, and there is no way to get around that. I lost what we had, and completely disregarded what our bond meant to me; to the both of us… it's not fair to you, if we walk away from this with everything forgotten. It wouldn't be right."
Yugi stared at his other, watching as the pharaoh opened his eyes to discover that his partner was standing mere inches away from him.
The darker half swallowed. "You… do not understand how much you mean to me, partner. How far I would go, how much I would do to get you back. I… you are… the only thing that matters."
Yugi thought about this. It was, possibly, the best and worst confession he had ever heard – but that was fine. Like so much else with the pharaoh, this was good enough.
So while the rest of reality went on unaware, picking up their dry cleaning, drinking their coffee, waiting outside for a good friend you thought long gone to reappear and greet you with a smile, Yugi leaned forward and drew his yami close, because it was something they had never done before, and yet somehow he knew it was something they both needed.
And the pharaoh grasped him back, strong arms around Yugi's figure and holding them there to truly confirm that it wasn't all a dream and that things were really going to be okay from then on. He held on tight, since he knew that they would have to go back sooner or later, back to Dartz and the Leviathan and the outside world.
But for the moment, none of that seemed to matter. All that did matter was how Yugi was really back, how the pharaoh was really there, and how the two of them could finally just be, and understand each other without having to say another word.
Because there was no reason for explanation. Not when they already understood the tears and the hurt, the betrayal and the apologies; and the forgiveness for breaking what really mattered, in the end.