Close Your Eyes, Clear Your Heart
Notes: The characters (including the store manager from episode #46) are not mine and the story is! It was written for the prompts Hands at Yugioh Contest and Once Upon a Time (You Are Never Here For Once) at 30 Angsts, both on Livejournal. It is a branch-off from my dark story Lead Me Through the Fire, drawing on some concepts from October but being an unconnected and completely separate possible follow-up to Lead Me. And it is not necessary to have read Lead Me first, considering the nature of this fic and the one that will immediately succeed it.
It was strange, the things Duke thought he remembered sometimes.
On normal, average, everydays, when he found himself laughing at a joke or at some other nonsense, occasionally he would trail off, wondering exactly what was supposed to be so funny. It was not like him to laugh, not anymore. But then someone would break into his thoughts, asking what was wrong, and he would come back to himself, assuring the questioner with a wave of his hand that nothing was wrong and that he was just spacing. Yet for some reason, he never could get back into laughing after one of those spells. The whatever-it-was just out of his reach continued to haunt him, reminding him that he was not happy, even if he thought he was.
When taking latenight drives or walks, he always did his best to avoid the old hotel near the docks that was under renovation. There was no reason why he should shun it; he had never even been there in his life. But the very name of the place filled him with a foreboding and a terror so strong that he could not deny or ignore it. He had to stay away. And he would take bizarre, out-of-the-way shortcuts, many of which were actually "longcuts", in order to do so.
Even unpacking new merchandise was uneasy sometimes. He would check and re-check the boxes when he knew very well that everything was on the shelves, as if fully expecting to find something else buried deep among the bubblewrap and packing peanuts. Finding nothing at all left him with an unexplainable relief and sense of security every time.
And then there were his feelings around his long-time store manager, which were perhaps the strangest of all. Just seeing him each day was an amazed surprise, as though he was not supposed to be there. And while they were not close by any stretch of the imagination, Duke sometimes found himself thinking that he would invite David for lunch or even to play Dungeon Dice Monsters—anything so they could just hang out, as they had not had the chance to do much before . . .
Before what? That always drove him up the wall, knowing that there was something there that his mind could not access no matter how hard he tried. He and David had not been friends. They had never been friends—only business associates. So why did it sometimes feel like everything he knew was a lie and the memories he could only grasp now and then were the truth? That made no sense whatsoever.
There were darker feelings, too. First and foremost among them, that he could not let David go near the docks, even when a new shipment was arriving or being sent. His fear of the hotel seemed to be connected with his fear for David's life, though it was crazy. He both fought the feelings and eventually gave in to them, having David stay at the store while he himself went to the docks for the shipments. Of course, nothing ever went amiss, and he scoffed at his idiocy.
"I don't know what goes on in your head, Dukey-boy," David told him sometimes, "but I mean it in the nicest way when I say I wish I did."
And Duke would snort and roll his eyes, making a sarcastic comment in response.
That nickname was something else that gave him pause. He let David call him whatever he wanted, but that pseudonym gave him a feeling of sadness he could not understand no matter how hard he tried. It was just a name, a silly one at that. They were only two years apart in age, yet David had insisted on calling him "Dukey-boy" since shortly after they had met. And for whatever reason, Duke let him.
It was on one such occasion when Duke had another of his spacing moments. The usage of the nickname had sent an arrow into his heart, followed by the unshakable thought I'll never hear him call me that again. But then he had been back in the present, wondering what on earth he had been thinking. David would continue to call him that whenever he pleased. And of course, he did indeed. Duke's odd thoughts were unfounded.
But the strange incidents were continuing to pile up, so much so that Duke finally slumped onto the couch in his office, desperate to come up with the explanation. If it was not that everything seemed to relate to his present life, he would almost be willing to consider reincarnation.
He shook his head. That was impossible. People did not live the same lives twice. Well, history repeated itself, but that would be going too far. If he had ever lived in the past, it had not been as Duke Devlin, dice master and store owner. He only had one chance at that.
So what other possibilities were there? Déjà vu was one thing, but this had gotten out of control long ago.
He stared down at his hands, as if the answer could somehow be found there.
Hatred . . . fear . . . grief. He grasped the revolver in his trembling hands, waiting for the murderer to come. Waiting to deliver death to the assassin who had killed his best friend in cold blood.
He gasped, forced back to the present. His eyes were wide and disbelieving. Perspiration was dripping down his face. His hands were clammy.
Hands that had never held a gun or tried to kill anyone, assassin or not.
And his best friend had most certainly not been killed. Did he even have a best friend? He was not particularly close to anyone. He kept Yugi and the others at arm's length, only getting involved with them when circumstances threw them together. The one he associated with the most was David, but he was just the store manager. A valued assistant to be sure, yet still not a best friend.
And why did that thought make him feel pained again?
What was he thinking? Where were these ideas coming from? Where, and why could he not remember? It was as if he was an amnesiac, having indeed forgotten everything about the life he had once lived. And yet, everyone else would have to be amnesiacs too, since none of them would have any idea what he was talking about if he brought these things up.
"Nothing makes sense here," he said, running his hands into his hair in utter frustration. "Who am I? I wish someone could tell me, because I'm not sure I even know any more."
"Talking to yourself?"
He looked up with a start. David was standing in the open doorway, appearing both confused and surprised. He was holding a clipboard in one hand, a pencil poised in the other.
"Just trying to work something out," Duke said. "What've you got?"
David glanced at the clipboard. "Seasonal inventory," he said. "It looks like we have everything we're supposed to. Oh, you know that box that we never could find last October? It turned up on the very back of a top shelf, buried under the Easter decorations." He shook his head. "No wonder it's been lost for six months."
Duke blew out his breath. October was something else that always gave him pause for reasons he could not explain. Something terrible had happened some year in October, yet he could not remember at all what it was.
Except that when he studied David, he was certain it involved him somehow.
"Hey, what's the deal? I don't still have Easter grass in my hair, do I?"
Duke started. "What? No." He ran a hand through his hair. "I was just spacing."
"You space out a lot when you're looking at me," David said. "It's starting to look a little suspicious."
"Sorry." Duke got off the couch and walked to the doorway. Suddenly processing what David had said a moment before, he gave his manager an amused look. "Wait a minute, you had Easter grass in your hair?"
David looked pained. "When I climbed up to check the shelf, a bunch of stuff fell down," he said. "Everything was crammed in too tight."
Duke burst out laughing. "I would have paid to see that."
David gave him a knowing, wicked smirk. "Somehow I don't think you'd be laughing if you'd been the victim," he said. "Especially if a pretty girl was watching."
"I wouldn't let myself be the victim," Duke said. "Especially if a pretty girl was watching."
"Like Serenity Wheeler?" David looked mischievous now. "How serious are you with that girl, anyway?"
Duke shot him a Look. "None of your business," he said. He walked past, heading for the stairs.
"Ouch. Well, Joey Wheeler thinks it's his business," David said, falling into step beside him.
Duke stopped. "Was he here today?" he said with a frown.
"Yeah. You were on the phone with a client at the time. The German jewel collector, I think." David shrugged. "Wheeler seemed to think I'd know the answer, since I'm around you the most. Other than Serenity, that is."
"Haha." Duke reached the stairs and started on his way down. "For your information, we're dating steady. It's not a secret. Joey should know about it, actually."
"Oh yeah, he knew." David followed him to the bottom. "But he said that didn't mean you aren't stringing her along. Which is true."
Duke gave an exaggerated sigh. "What do you think I'm doing?" he said.
"I couldn't say for sure," David said, giving him a sidelong glance. "I'd like to say you really love the girl. I hope so, anyway; it's clear that she loves you."
"I do love her. But enough about my love life." Duke headed for the back room. "I want to check out this missing box."
He frowned more as he went. Sometimes he and David got into conversations like this . . . like old friends. David always instigated them, and for some reason, he managed to draw things out of Duke that no one else could—except Serenity. Duke was usually left wondering why on earth he had revealed whatever David had asked about that time.
Albeit if Duke was honest with himself, he felt more comfortable around David than he did Yugi and the others. With Yugi's gang he always felt like an outsider, especially since Yugi, Joey, Tristan, and Téa had already formed such close bonds. And dating Serenity had gotten him on rocky ground with both Joey and Tristan.
But with David, Duke never felt like an outsider. David was his manager, his confidant, someone willing to listen and to give advice—whether or not Duke wanted it. Oh, Yugi and the others were certainly willing, too; once or twice Duke had actually talked with Téa about some things that had been bothering him. Out of all of Yugi's gang, she was the easiest to talk to. Still, he found himself talking with David much more often.
Maybe, he mused, they really were friends, and had been for a long time.
Maybe even in the life he could not remember.
He paused in the doorway. What bewildered him was that he could not shake the feeling that the forgotten life had ended in tragedy. Yet they were both here, alive and well, as if nothing had happened.
If it was not for the fleeting memories, Duke would believe nothing had.
"Dukey . . . you're spacing again."
Duke rolled his eyes. "Okay, okay." He stepped through the door and into the storeroom.
Would he ever know the truth about this other life? He doubted it. And he really would not care, if that life's ghost would stop haunting him.
"Is that the box there?" he said, glancing to a cardboard container that had been placed on a table.
"That's it," David said, walking with him over to it.
Duke smirked as he pulled several strands of temperamental Easter grass away from where it had stuck to one of the box's corners. "Here," he said, passing the stuff to David. As he did so, their hands brushed against each other.
David blinked in surprise. "Duke, your hands are cold," he commented.
Duke frowned. Were they still clammy from earlier, when he had experienced that flash of memory, or whatever it was, about the assassin?
"Nevermind about my hands," he said. "Let's see what's in here." He pulled away the tape and lifted the flaps, peering into the box.
"The other new Dungeon Dice characters, just as ordered," David mused, taking out several expansion packs. While balancing them on the clipboard, he made a note of the contents.
Duke removed the rest. But as he drew them out of the box, something came loose from among them and clattered to the table. He looked to it, about to complain about one of the bags being loose, when the purple gleam fully caught his attention.
"What the . . ."
David stared too. "Holy Toledo," he gasped. "That was not part of the order!"
Laying on the table was a large, beautifully cut amethyst.