Title: Dying Changes Everything
Rating: M for sexual themes (but no actual sex; sorry if this is a disappointment)
Summary: The spirit of the pharaoh says goodbye to Yugi in his own way.
Genre: Angst/Romance
Pairings: Angsty puzzleshipping.
Words: 2474

A/N: A bit weird. This is more of an exploration of the darker side of puzzleshipping with throwbacks to the manga and season 0: after all, the pharaoh never really did apologize for using Yugi's body to torture and "punish" all those people with Dark Games. He never apologized for the malicious son of a bitch he could occasionally be. And I've always wanted to talk about the elephant in the room. I imagine some may say parts of this is OOC, but I tried my best.

Disclaimer: On every Yu-Gi-Oh product I have found, there is the name "4Kids" inscribed on it somewhere. I have come to the conclusion that this company is somehow related to the ownership of Yu-Gi-Oh.

Dying Changes Everything

It started and ended with death.

"How – why do you do these things?"

"I do my best to protect you."

"I don't need that kind of protection! Look, I'm not – I'm not a violent person! I don't like fighting. I can't imagine – you doing those things – with my body, it's…"


"Even if – you're only a figment of his mind, a representation of some hidden subconscious thing I've been keeping under, even if that's true, how could you be so dark? How could there be a part of me so willing to resort to violent threats in the name of protection?"

"I do what I know how to for your safety. When I am alerted to your danger, there is precious time available to me, and I am left with few options."

"There is always the option of peace, isn't there? Or do you even know what that means?"

"I am aware of the concept. Though I find it a rather beautiful ideal, it is hard to ignore the ugly truth."

"I can't believe it. You… I don't know how to deal with this. Oh, my God."

They don't talk about the Shadow Games anymore.

Yami doesn't have much experience with people. Yugi is the most important person in his world and as far as he is concerned, one person to care about is enough. He feels overflowed with the emotions he feels toward one person; he doesn't need to worry about anyone else.

As time goes on, he realizes how little experience he has with romance, as well. He doesn't remember previous lovers, no triggered flashbacks that hint at who he used to be or who he used to be with.

He knows nothing of modern love. His entire concept of love revolves around what he does for his partner. His love manifests itself in the forms of the Shadow Magic used to torture their opponents, sending bullies and company CEOs tumbling into insanity. It shouldn't be right, that kind of love given to a person so unsuited for it as Yugi is. The spirit's love isn't safe. His love is desire and fury and fear and death. And Yugi is blindingly, excruciatingly alive.

"I don't even know if I can trust you. It terrifies me, you know, blacking out in the middle of a street and waking up hours later with blood on my hands."

"I do it for you."

"But I don't know what you've done! Most of the time it's left up to my imagination, and then I find out it's ten times worse, and I – I just…"

"…Your spirit is a kind one, Yugi. You are gentle. I am not, and have no desire to be. Just as it is in your nature to forgive, it is mine to – "

"To punish? Is that what you're saying?"

"The Shadows are the ones who punish. I simply bring the guilty to their doorstep."

The spirit doesn't know what to do. He never wanted these feelings, but he wouldn't trade them for the world. They hurt him. They tease him. They make him doubtful and unsure. They make him a man again.

It was hard to believe that hate was the right answer when he had tried to justify it to his partner, the one time they did discuss Before. Yugi believes that you need good excuses for hate, not against it. The spirit believes he was just getting things done.

And perhaps this was why Yugi had been so scared, in the early months. Already he had recognized how dark the spirit was, how dangerous his feelings were. It took a long time to understand, if not justify (not justify no never justify how could you do those things other me i don't understand you're supposed to be one of the good guys), the things he had done.

And yes, sometimes his love borders on violence. But he's never cruel. Not to him.

"…I believe I have misjudged my presence here. I will not take control of your body for Dark Games any longer. You can rest assured I shall no longer come into contact with or use your body for these purposes again."

"…And my mind?"

"Your mind?"

"If you're… in my head, how do I know that your presen – your existence won't somehow… affect my mind?"

"Ah. Your mind. Our minds. Well. They are connected, Yugi. And I am afraid departing without leaving some sort of influence… is not that simple."

Denial isn't working anymore. He wants to see Yugi's eyes half-lidded, glazed. He wants his hands to run over Yugi as easily as his voice does. He wants to feel everything, feel Yugi wash over him like velvet, murmuring in a voice of honey and cinnamon and sex. He wants to mark him, leave some proof on his body of brief ownership, a reminder of his love. He wants to cement their partnership, the connection that has been forged between them.

He wants to press until he feels like his skin will explode, grip until his fingers rub raw, and push until his partner pushes back.

It would be close enough to convince himself it might just be real. It would be ripping open old wounds and putting it all back together. Being with Yugi like that – would be unsafe. Wicked and sickening.

An excitement, a fizzing beneath the surface of his skin, a drive, a lust for this, he has been waiting for this –

And then that edge, that tip over the edge into white-hot pleasure, is what he dreams about – he wants to know that place, stay there forever, always falling into the end, always nearly there.

"So – you're saying you'll stop?"

"I believe we are at a point in which the Games are no longer necessary. You are safe. I have done my part."

"…Look, it's not that I'm not grateful that you're trying to help. It's just… the help itself. I don't believe the ends always justify the means. I – I want to appreciate it, but it's hard when you've done so much bad that I have… trouble seeing the good."

"I do not think in terms of good and evil, Yugi. I believe in justice and righteousness. The virtuous should be rewarded, the malevolent penalized."

"And you're the one to decide who falls under which category? Sometimes it's not that simple. You can't always fit people into groups."

"It does not take a hero to determine evil, and I do not claim to be one. Humans can be disgustingly easy to understand."

"How can you say that? I know there can be bad people, but… there's so much good in the world. And cruel people can change. Including you."

God, he could – he could really forget, with Yugi. He longs for him with every fiber of his being. With him, he could forget. But he has already forgotten enough.

If Yugi remembers him, he doesn't care if everyone else forgets. To be remembered by him is enough. It will have to be – it is all there is.

Yugi isn't safe from him. With his love of Yugi had once come the horrible thing that put Ushio in a mental asylum and pushed his partner out of the way in California.

He takes comfort in the knowledge that there will be others. Other women and men that will be able to hold Yugi, touch him, love him the way he should be. Lovers with names. People with futures. He accepts that gracefully, welcomes the fact that he will not leave Yugi as alone as he had been when they had met. He can accept the fact that Yugi will allow others to know his body and mind as well as he does (almost as well, almost as well they can't understand what we've been through they won't get all of it like i have no not quite there's an inch of him that still belongs to me).

What he can't accept is the fact that there will be no proof of him, of them. He wants Yugi to have some physical evidence, a reminder of his existence. Not out of vanity. Simply as proof that someone has been able to touch him so deeply. When Yami leaves, there will be nothing left.

Yugi has fading burns from a warehouse fire and faint bruises around his neck from a heavy necklace. They'll fade. There will soon be no mark on him to indicate how much he was loved. Almost as if none of it ever happened.

"…Perhaps it is our misfortune to have come together. Your soul such a kind one, and mine so dark. Our natures are not… compatible. That much is clear. And I apologize for forcing you to deal with the guilt of knowing what I have done. I understand why you must hate me."

"I don't hate you. I just… don't understand you."

"…I see. Well. Then that makes two of us, I suppose."

He doesn't care if his feelings are reciprocated. It would make it easier to love him if they aren't. And how much more painful would their separation be, really, if it is two lovers torn apart, not two partners? A shame, not a separation. This is supposed to be a goodbye for now, a new beginning with a bittersweet ending – not a tragedy.

Yugi makes him feel like he exists. But that isn't enough. He can't let that happen. The pharaoh is dead, expired, gone. And still, he loves him. It is not even worth thinking about, though it affects everything he is and does. It is the only thing he knows without a fraction of a doubt; and he will not, can not, allow Yugi to suffer because of it.

If Yugi is to live, truly live, then the pharaoh cannot. It's a fair trade. And Death will get a warped spirit, a shadow of a self long gone from the world. The path has been set, and he has made his deals with the universe. It doesn't matter if he believes it is the right thing to do. All that he has to do is convince Yugi that it is.

"…I finished my deck."


"I think I'll be pretty tough to beat. No going easy on me, okay?"

"I would never dare to insult you in such a way."

"…Hey. Other me?"

"Yes, aibou?"

"I just wanted to say. Or maybe it doesn't need to be said, but… still, whatever happens, I wouldn't trade any of it."


"We could've turned out differently, you know? We didn't have to become so close. The person who solved the Puzzle could've been a real – a total jerk, and you would've solved the world with him and then left and it would've been clean and done with no emotions attached. But we're…"

"We're partners."

"And it's harder this way, but I'm glad it happened. I'd rather have all of it, even the sad parts like now, instead of none at all. It's just… If I win tomorrow, I'm going to miss you. I'll miss you so much. But then I think about how it might've been done another way if someone else had solved the Puzzle or if I had given up or something, and it makes this easier to accept. I understand you have to go. I just hope you know what you mean to me."

"…There was never another way, aibou."


"This was always going to happen. We were always going to meet. We were born three thousand years apart and still managed to find our way to one another. 'We' were always going to happen."

"I… yeah. Yeah, I get it. You're right."

"…I have a request to make of you. Please, when you think back on this time, I would like you to remember not the departure. I would like it very much if you would simply remember the remarkable person that you are."

"What about you?"

"A kind recollection of me would be very much appreciated, but not necessary. Just be reminded of the confidence you have found within yourself."

"You found it, though."

"I helped a bit. But it was you, aibou. It was always you."

On the night before the Ceremonial Duel, Yugi comes to a decision.

If Yami wins and stays, it's just possible that Yugi might grow to hate him. And if he leaves, Yugi knows that he will have to love him. The choice is obvious, really.

The pharaoh loves him. Yugi can remember coming to the realization in the hot, dusty desert of California. A bit sad, really, that it had taken a magic cult and ancient serpent stealing Yugi's soul for them both to realize it.

Spirits can't touch and feel, but they can apparently torture and hold raw power in the palms of their hands.

Their entire lives have been before and afters. Before and after the Puzzle. Before and after Doma. Before and after Duel Monsters and the Shadow Games and their friends. Before and after a thief came to a palace three thousand years ago and declared war against the gods.

He doesn't want the rest of his life to be a chapter titled "After the Pharaoh." Of all the divisions in his life, this one is going to be the hardest to accept.

Yugi is alone in his soul room when he realizes that Yami is going to die. Officially. It's sometimes hard for him to understand that he's always been dead when he hasn't been gone. There was always still a bit left (his soul trapped in a puzzle bounded by ancient magic god what a horrible way to survive and you want to condemn him to that for another three millennia?). A final inch that has belonged to Yugi for three years he now has to give to those that have been waiting a thousand times that long.

Spirits can't die, but they can apparently love.

He tries to tell himself that by wanting the pharaoh to live, he's disregarding everything they've ever worked for. That's not the point, he's reminded the next morning when Yami faces him in the arena. He isn't here to live. He's here to finish what he's started. He isn't here for you. It isn't even for him. But this is for him. Let me give him this. He deserves this…

Yugi looks at his opponent squarely in the eyes, careful not to show his doubt.

Yami just loves him. Only that. This particular piece of knowledge will always hit Yugi like a brick, a reminder of what will be lost in the next few minutes. He loves him, and Yugi has loved back.

Yami has only lit his heart up, warmed him from the inside out and made him real. Only that.