Title: Just Don't Look Back
Warnings: AU, implied sex, insanity, violence
Summary: Before he met Yugi, Yami spent his days panhandling alone. Yugi put his heart into changing Yami's life, giving him companionship, a home and his love. But even he can't save Yami from the control of his past, nor the dark path he is set upon.
Disclaimer: Yugioh continues to not belong to me.
Note 7/24/10: Due to ff dot net deciding it doesn't want to let us use any sort of divider other than its horizontal rule, I'm in the process of going through and replacing the line breaks.
The neighborhood was unfamiliar, and Yugi was completely lost. It was Jounouchi's fault, he was the one who insisted they had to stop for a snack, ("to celebrate making it through the first day back after summer break!" he had claimed) on the way home, and had to take a short cut. It wouldn't have been that big of a deal…if Jounouchi wasn't completely lost too.
"No, I swear, the road we want should be right around here."
"I am never letting you pick where we stop again," Yugi said. "I wanted go straight home, but no, we just had to go wander around part of the city that we know nothing about…"
"Quiet, I'm trying to concentrate." Jounouchi was drawing a make-shift map on his arm, studying it intently.
"Concentrate on what, getting us more lost?"
"If we ever figure out how to get home I'm never covering for you when you're late to Homeroom again–"
Deep in what looked to be a promising argument, Yugi almost didn't hear the soft shakuhachi music or voice to his left saying, "Spare change?"
"Oh, well in that case I– huh?" Yugi stopped and looked to his side.
The words weren't what made him stop. The housing situation in Domino had deteriorated as the economy slowed, and the population of homeless had been steadily growing. It was impossible to wander around too much without seeing a panhandler. No, it wasn't the question that got his attention. It was the voice.
Most of the homeless were drunks or drug addicts, with raspy voices and deadened eyes that hinted at their stories. However, this one was different. The voice was not marred by years of alcohol or cigarette smoke, nor was it broken like the voices of those who had given up on humanity. It was a gentle rumble, smooth and calm and yet just expressive enough to catch Yugi's attention.
And when he saw the person it belonged to, he could only stare.
He was a young man, probably not much older than himself. Shabby clothes hung off a bony frame as he sat with his back against a building. Beside him was a metal, basket-style cart with a padlock to hold the lid closed, filled with odds and ends. He held a shakuhachi flute and a small bucket sat in front of him with coins and bills in it. His hair was the first thing Yugi noticed, and he couldn't help staring even though he knew it was rude. This boy's hair looked almost just like his own. It was just as spiky, with a similar unusual coloring. He had wrestled it back into a ponytail for the warm, late-summer day, but Yugi could tell that if set free it would be almost a copy of his own.
Yugi's first thought, after the surprise, was that the voice couldn't possibly belong to this person, until he finally stopped focusing on his hair and saw his eyes. And suddenly he knew without question that they must go together. The stranger's eyes were red, dark and deep. They were eyes that would definitely belong to that voice.
"Spare change? Anything helps," the young man said again, leaning forward and meeting Yugi's eyes. His voice was definitely the one Yugi had stopped for.
His eyes lightened when the sun hit them. Now they were a softer, richer color. Yugi was captivated.
"C'mon Yug, I definitely know how to find the street, I've got it right this time." Jounouchi capped his pen, grabbed Yugi's arm, and pulled him away.
"Didn't you see that homeless person?" Yugi asked.
Jounouchi glanced back. "Yeah, how could I not, he's practically your doppelganger." He ruffled Yugi's hair.
Yugi shook his bangs out of the way and continued to press the point. "Don't you think it's weird that he's here? He must be near our age. I've never seen him around town before or in school."
"What's the big deal? There're thousands of homeless people around. I was nearly one once. That big housing development was knocked down recently, the economy's gone to hell, and refugees from that earthquake down south are still showing up to mooch. It's nothing new. Now let's go, I'm starving…"
Yugi swallowed and glanced back. He saw the young man watching them go. His eyes weren't bright anymore. There was a strange fierceness in his expression, and Yugi got the feeling that even though this young man was homeless and panhandling, he still had pride. And he had obviously heard what Jounouchi said about mooching.
"Hang on Jounouchi," Yugi said, hurrying back towards the stranger and opening his backpack as he did, digging through the pouches till he found a few bills, and held them out. "Here…I hope this helps you. I'm sorry about what my friend said. He's sort of blunt sometimes, he didn't mean it."
The young man looked at the proffered money for a moment, and then up at Yugi, and suddenly smiled. Yugi was shocked into silence again. The smile had transformed his whole face.
"Thanks," he said, his tone softening, taking the bills. "I appreciate it."
"It's no problem." Yugi lingered for a moment, wanting to say more, wanting to ask why the young man was all alone here, did he have a home, where was his family, what even was his name…
"Yugi! What are you doing?" Jounouchi called.
"Um, well, I have to go…um…have a good day," Yugi said, turning and jogging off. Behind him he heard the flute music begin again. This time he didn't look back.
It must be somewhere around here… "Ow!" Yugi gasped and winced as he tripped over a raised piece of broken concrete and glared down at the gap in the sidewalk.
It was late afternoon, the day after he and Jounouchi's disastrous attempt at finding a short cut. He had spent the last hour trying to re-trace their steps to the street where the flute-playing panhandler had been. There was nobody with him this time, and without Jounouchi's help he was finding it difficult to get lost in the same place. He knew he was in the right part of town, it had to be nearby…
Yugi couldn't say exactly why he'd come back. Only that the night before he hadn't been able to sleep. He'd been thinking of the young stranger. Lying in bed staring out his window and wondering if he was sleeping. Where he was. If he was cold or scared or alone. Yugi never paid much attention to homelessness before, even considering Jounouchi's past. But seeing that boy who looked so much like himself, and seeing those eyes, and the way his expression lit up when he smiled…it made it more real to him. He was used to thinking of every drifter as a loser, a bum, someone to maybe give some change to and then ignore. Because he always thought, if someone really tried, they wouldn't have ended up begging, and most of the panhandlers spent their money on narcotics and beer anyway. But this young man…he looked alert and smelled only of sweat and road dust; there was no reek of alcohol or paranoid gaze of a drug addict.
Here was someone different, someone innocent perhaps. Someone who couldn't be much older than Yugi himself. Yet, Yugi was falling asleep in a nice bed with warm covers in a house that he could take shelter in anytime he wanted, comfortably full of dinner cooked by his family.
What about the stranger? Where was his bed? His warmth? His shelter? His family? Did he even have any?
Unable to rest, Yugi felt that he had to learn more. He had to at least meet the boy again and learn his story. Which, he told himself, was why he'd returned to this part of town, trying to find the street, just hoping that maybe the boy would be in the same area. It was just curiosity.
He saw a flash of red, black, and blond in the distance and his heart leapt. There he was. The stranger was sitting nearby where he had been the day before, except today he'd chosen a slightly sunnier spot and his hair was free, just as spiky as Yugi had suspected. Yugi broke into a stride.
"Hey, it's you again," the young man said, pausing in his music as he spotted Yugi.
"Yeah, it's me." Yugi smiled at him.
The stranger glanced around. "So what brings you back here? Where's your friend?"
"I didn't bring him this time. Yesterday we were trying to find a diner and got lost. Today I just came…to see you."
The boy was puzzled. "See me?"
"Yeah. I wanted to talk to you some more." Feeling shy, Yugi studied his feet. "Like…what's your name? Where are you from? Where is your family?"
Almost the moment he asked, he wished he hadn't. The stranger's expression had darkened, and he lowered his head to hide his eyes. For a moment his body seemed to tense up.
"I…I'm sorry, I know it's none of my business, I shouldn't have asked." Yugi took a step back.
"No…it's fine," the boy said, taking a deep breath. His body relaxed. "No shame in asking a question." He shrugged and was quiet. Yugi decided to take the lead, sat down next to him against the building, and said, "So what is your name?"
The young man was quiet for a moment, as if struggling with something, but finally spoke. "It's Yami." He inclined his head, shifting the flute to one hand and held out the other to Yugi. When Yugi took it he could feel calluses and scars marring the skin.
"Mine's Yugi," he replied, shaking his hand and bowing back.
"Yugi," he said, as if sampling the name. "So…what did you want to talk about?"
"I don't know, anything you want."
"Okay. Um…have you lived in this town your whole life?" Yami asked.
"Yeah, I was born here."
"They live here too. Well, my dad's an overseas businessman, so he's gone a lot…" Somehow, what had started as a mission to learn more about Yami turned into Yugi telling the strange boy his own life story. Yami was remarkably good at avoiding talking about himself. Anytime Yugi tried, Yami would just ask another question and Yugi felt obligated to answer. His parents had drilled basic manners into his head ever since he was a toddler.
"Yami, how long have you lived here?"
"Not long. You go to a nearby high school, don't you? I've seen that uniform around."
"Well…yeah, Domino High…" And again Yami had pulled a 180 and somehow Yugi was the subject of the questions again.
He couldn't say he really minded though. With a willing audience it was easy to talk about himself, and Yami seemed genuinely interested. He played a few songs for Yugi on the shakuhachi and Yugi was thrilled when his story of an ill-fated cultural festival – his one and only attempt at playing an instrument – earned a laugh. When he was laughing, Yami seemed less like someone to pity and more like any other teen.
The sun was starting to set when Yami leaned back against the building and said, almost to himself, "This was a nice afternoon."
Yugi blinked, looked around, and jumped to his feet. How had he not noticed the time? "Oh no…I'm sorry Yami, I have to go. My mom's going to be furious with me," he said, grabbing his backpack. He was already several strides away when he turned. "Hey…Yami?"
Yami, who had slouched down, shot upright. "Huh?"
"Will you be here tomorrow?"
"…You want to come back?" Yami asked.
"Yeah." He nodded, pulling the straps of his bag over his arms. "So, will you?"
Yami was quiet for a little while. Then, slowly, as if he had to get used to the words before he could say them he replied, "Sure…I will be."
Yugi smiled. "Cool. See you!" He waved once and took off at a jog.
Back alongside the building, Yami slouched again and drew his knees to his chest. He wasn't smiling.
X - X - X
Notes: Anybody out there remember how back at the end of A Requiem for Innocence I said I wanted to do a super long angsty Puzzleshippy fic? Anyone remember that? Eh, that fic was posted ages ago…I understand if nobody recalls it. But anyway, that long angsty fic I threatened to do? You're looking at it. x3 This fic has been in the works for, literally, years. I can't even begin to count the number of plot changes it's gone through. I've reused some plot devices that I was unable to use to full justice in fics in the past. To say I'm excited to start posting this and to see what people think of the final product is an understatement. I'm psyched. I'm also so terrified that I'm shaking and am having a difficult time breathing normally. (Ah, the joy of writing. Makes me wonder what would happen if/when I get published and do a book signing. I'll probably keel clean over. Hopefully someone nice will come along and prop me back up. xD)
A big shout out to Micah for being a most awesome beta and helping this fic reach its full potential!
Most importantly of all, this is an AU which means as far as the storyline is concerned, there are no restrictions. Everyone grab your favorite food and comfy blankets; I hope you'll stick around for the ride, and I'll do my best to make it worth your while. n.n