Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-gi-oh.

This is a something to make up for spamming the inboxes of the people who have me on author alert. I'm still meaning to write that long Seto/Seth fic, I swear!

Oh, the Mana Khemia fic, Tree of Thoth, that I've been writing for awhile is a crossover with Yu-gi-oh if anyone's interested. Just the Yu-gi-oh magic, though, not the characters.

The first paragraph is courtesy of Nemi-chan, who I asked for a prompt.

Takes place in a weird sort of in-between of the manga and anime.

A house is built on stone and concrete. Yugi's room is shielded by bright paint and soft stuffed animals. Yami's room is dark and the stone lays bare. There are no cans of paint in Yugi's room, but he can bring over a stuffed animal, or fifty.

At first he worried that he might be messing up Yami's mind, by redecorating his soul room. He wouldn't want to do to Yami what Shadi did to Grandpa's friend. Then he remembered what Yami had told him, and Shadi. That his true soul room was buried somewhere deep within this maze, where not even Yami could find it.

Yugi had gone looking several times, trying to help, which was how he'd learned enough about how the traps worked and the maze was laid out (it was really one more game) to save Shadi the second time he'd trespassed here, after Pegasus. He still didn't know what to think about what Pegasus had said. The items might be dark magic, Shadi, Pegasus and now Malik might be able to do a lot of harm with them, but while Yami might be the power of darkness that the puzzle had granted him, Yami wasn't evil.

The items, though…

It was the puzzle that made this maze, that kept Yami sealed away from his memories and his true self.

It was too cold in here. Too cold and too cruel.

The first time Yugi had come here, he had offered to let Yami (the other him) stay in Yugi's soul room, where it was warm. Yami had refused, shaking his head and explaining that unlike this maze, Yugi's soul room was his soul room, and Yami didn't want to risk harming him further, even after Yugi had said that no, he hadn't been harmed at all, it wasn't Yami's fault that the other Bakura had sealed them in the game and everything had turned out alright thanks to him, hadn't it?

It wasn't until the second time he came here that he realized that yes, Yami did sleep here, on the cold stone ground.

That was when he'd started to insist on carrying over the stuffed animals, so at least Yami had something.

Yugi couldn't help but laugh at the thought of Shadi's reaction if he'd found them here…

It had ended up almost being a game between him and Yami, although Yami took it more seriously.

Yami hadn't liked the idea of things being removed from Yugi's soul room because of him. Yugi had countered that if removing things was so bad, because it might be making Yugi less, then why didn't he do what Yugi had suggested in the first place and add something?

"You're the other me. I don't know if you really are a part of me or not, but… I wouldn't mind if you were." That had been a weird thing to say, and Yami had gotten serious about trying to find out his real name right after that. Had he said the wrong thing?

Before that, Yugi had kept carrying over the stuffed animals and Yami had kept 'bring them back when he was done,' as though he wasn't going to have to go to sleep again in the evening.

"Just because you don't need them doesn't mean you shouldn't have them," Yugi had reminded him.

He did notice that, over the weeks, fewer and fewer stuffed animals appeared in his soul room, and at first he'd thought that maybe Yami was keeping some and stopped carrying them over, but when Yami had said again that yes, he was fine sleeping on the ground he realized that no, he hadn't kept them. That this place was as cold and empty as ever.

Maybe taking the stuffed animals out really was changing his soul room. Maybe it really was changing him, and Yami was right to be afraid.

He didn't tell Yami.

Yugi didn't mind growing up, really.

Most of why he liked games was that he liked, no, loved games. Part of it was that they were his memento of Grandpa, of all the time they had spent together. But part of it was that he hadn't known how to make friends, but people were often willing to play a game, and maybe if they liked the game they'd like him.

But he had friends now, who weren't his friends so that they could play the latest games but learned how to play games in order to be his friends. Although even when they stopped playing, that didn't break his bonds with them.

Yami and the puzzle had really been the catalyst of all of this, had given him strength and confidence, so he didn't mind growing up, he didn't mind losing his childishness, if that could give Yami even a little comfort. Pay him back even a little.

He didn't mind falling asleep in class, either. He'd been staying up late working on the puzzle for eight years already, and this was really just more of the puzzle, this echoing labyrinth. He'd kept trying to solve the puzzle for so long because, well, he didn't quite know why. When he was doing it he knew why, but now he wondered if the reason he'd done it was so that he could meet Yami. Was it silly to believe in destiny when there was magic all around them?

He would be happy spending another eight years trying to solve this maze, if that meant he could find Yami's true self. If that meant Yami could find his own true self.

Really, being in this tournament and finding out what Malik knew about the ancient pharaoh, that was important to Yami, but Yugi didn't think they could find out the truth here. Malik had to be wrong about so many things, because Yami just wasn't like that. Yami wasn't the kind of person who would condemn people to live in the dark and cold, trapped in a stone maze and never seeing the sun.

Someone had done that to Malik, and it hadn't been Yami, just as someone had done this to Yami.

Well, perhaps Yami had done it to himself, used himself as a sacrifice or a seal, but that was it. He was the kind of person who took everything upon himself. Yugi often had to force Yami to let him help, although what had happened in Pegasus' shadow game proved that Yami was right to worry. Regardless, Yami might sacrifice monsters, but only because they were okay with that, and they didn't really suffer or die. He would never do that to a family, not people who hadn't wanted it, not for thousands of years.

Although Yugi could understand why Malik's ancestors might have sealed themselves away, he really did. He would do something like that for Yami, because Yami never asked for it. Because Yami would protest, because Yami cared about Yugi's welfare.

Shadi might see everyone as just potential criminals to be judged. Malik and the other Malik might be mad. As for the other Bakura?

Yami wasn't like them. Yugi knew it, even though Yami was afraid that he was. Not that he would show it, he didn't want Yugi to worry.

But Yugi did worry, because Yami was worth worrying about. So Yugi wrapped the stuffed animals in a sheet and tried to make them into something like a comfortable bed while Yami sorted through his deck yet again. Yami insisted it was Yugi's deck, but it was only fair that Yami have a deck of his own. It didn't mean that Yugi couldn't use it. Grandpa's deck had wanted to help Yugi and Yami, and Yami's deck came just as quickly when Yugi called.

Were those tablets only there because of how important the deck was to them? No, there was more to it than that. The Dark Magician really did care about Yami, had been desperate to help him against the, the…

Theoretically, they were just cards. But when Yugi had seen Yami's reaction to Malik's minion Pandora abusing the Dark Magician, he'd finally understood why Kaiba had done such terrible things to acquire all of the Blue Eyes White Dragon cards, and torn up the last one so it could never be used against him.

Forced to attack him the way the Dark Magician was being used against Yami, twisted and…

The Blue Eyes White Dragon had been so disappointed in Kaiba, so angry at what he had become. And then the card had heard Kaiba's call even from so far away…

Yami and Kaiba were connected somehow, and for awhile Yugi had been jealous. Kaiba was the genius, Kaiba was… maybe the one that Yami should have gone to. Yugi might have been lonely, but Kaiba had been broken inside, had needed Yami far more than Yugi did.

Or that's what Yugi would have thought if he hadn't spent eight years solving the puzzle, if he hadn't learned how it worked in that span of time. A game was a game, and he'd won. Kaiba hadn't. There was nothing unfair about that, there was no 'should,' only luck, skill, perseverance, and the heart of the cards, of the game itself.

And somewhere at the heart of the puzzle was Yami's heart.

Yami might be afraid that all of him was as hard, cold, and cruel as this stone shell, but Yugi knew better. Through playing against someone you came to know them, and Yugi had tested himself against the puzzle for eight years.

The metal was cold and hard, but he'd always known that the prize was worth it.

A title didn't mean anything, a victory didn't, unless the game was a true and fair challenge. The harder the game, the more valuable the prize, the greater the victory.

Yugi loved games, and his prize for winning against the Millennium Puzzle had been another game.

So he tried to remind himself that yes, he had won, tried to focus on making Yami's bed instead of the challenges still facing them. Because he didn't want to keep Yami up with his worries, his fears that maybe, maybe he was holding Yami back, maybe…

In the end, they did end up talking late into the night.

In the end, he didn't care where it took him, he was glad to have known the other him. Even when he ended up in place like this, he reflected as he glared at Malik, refusing to make any sound as a bit of him dissolved away.

Now he was the one tied up the way the Dark Magician had been. It was kind of funny, not that this was a laughing matter. Yugi might be hiding his pain, but Yami knew, and Yami blamed himself, and how dare Malik think that Yami was a bad person?

Yami and the Dark Magician, Kaiba and the Blue-Eyes… Yugi had been nowhere in that vision.

Unless he was right, and Yami really was the other him. Egyptians believed that the soul had several parts, right?

Yugi shook his head, frowning cutely. No, he had to focus on the duel, on what he could do for Yami. This was just like Pegasus: they would get through this together and save everyone.

It may be ancient magic, but it's cards as well. One card or forty, they can beat them all, gods or not. If Yami was a pharaoh, then he's a god too, and they also have Osiris (the dead pharaoh…) and Kaiba's Obelisk on their side.

One stuffed animal or fifty, one card or forty. A few hours or eight years twice over (Yugi hopes they have more time than that together, though). A house is built of stone and concrete. A friendship is built of effort and caring.

So he won't give up. They won't lose.

He won't let Malik do anything else to the pharaoh.

Not to the other half of Yugi's soul.