Wow… When I posted my last little oneshot, "Boku no Kioku," I was honestly worried if it would get much response at all. It felt awkward and forced and I wasn't too fond of it. And then I get this amazing response from all of you—in less than two weeks, I get over 190 hits (and from so many different countries!), 9 reviews, and 19 favorites. You guys are great.

So! The wonderful response to that prompted me to keep up my YuGiOh writing, as it's summer and I have time outside of my government course. This story is perhaps as contemplative (or maybe a bit more so) than "Boku no Kioku," and a little more serious, but I tried to throw in fluff and humor just because I don't like writing things that are so heavy you feel like sitting in the bath and eating a gallon of chocolate ice cream afterward. Or is that just me?

Not much more to say about this one: it's rated for references to violent-ish and sad events, and it's based on the Japanese anime, near the beginning of season 2 (I think you can guess when as you read). As the summary states, as usual, this is non-romance. Nothing romantic is intended between any of the characters, at all, even a little, despite the emotional weight of it all. But you're the reader and you're free to read whatever I write however you please.

The conversation directly from the anime (somewhere in the story) is copyrighted to Takahashi Kazuki-san and to the YuGiOh anime team (who modified it quite a bit). The translations are mostly mine, though I already had a general sense of what the scene was about when I translated it. They're as faithful as I could make them without sounding weird. No, I'm not fluent in Japanese; conversational, at best, and I have a good dictionary (ironically, I have half the quoted conversation memorized… in Japanese). Oh, and you are free to use the translations if you like, and modify them as you see fit.

I really hope you enjoy it—it's not a whole lot or anything, but it was very interesting to write. Oh, and by the way, "Taisetsu" is a Japanese adjective with no direct English meaning. It could mean "important," "dear," or other similar definitions. My favorite translation, and the one that fits this best? "Precious."

Have a great day, everyone, and I hope you enjoy my little story. Please leave a review! You know how much they help me out!

Oh, and please drop by my profile when you get a chance. I have a little poll up there for anyone who might read my work.

[EDIT: Whoops! Looks like the poll didn't show up at first. It should be there now. Thanks, guys!]

[EDIT2: Apparently the poll feature hates me, and refuses to work correctly. Thanks very much to Magiccatprinces for letting me know! I just thought no one had an opinion. If you would like to recommend what I should write next, just send it in a review or PM. I'll try and figure out what's wrong with the poll feature. Sorry, guys!]


Yami was quiet for a very long time after Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun pulled them out of the fire.

He supposed that communication after such an event was bound to be broken, uncertain, strained. Mostly it was feelings that passed between them across the link he was becoming more and more aware of each day. The emotions of relief, comfort, that sense that everything was okay.

Yami did all he could to make sure none of his own worry and fear got passed along.

Mou hitori no boku?

He pulled his image out of the Puzzle without even a second thought.

He had grown far more used to projecting himself in the past weeks. It had been difficult at first, and the task had daunted him when he first realized he would have to start doing it on a regular basis in order to properly communicate. Like a child who stares at the bicycle without training wheels and can never imagine themselves riding alone without falling onto the concrete below. New and terrifying, but a journey that needed to be made.

Aibou had taught him many modern metaphors like that, though he still had yet to ask about "bicycles."

Now he projected himself easily, and in a single instant, he came to stand in the hospital room. White and plain, like the copy paper stacked in the back of the game shop. Inhuman, unfeeling.

Aibou had mentioned to him, however fleeting that mention was, that hospitals were safe places people went when they were sick or hurt. Safe. Protect.

Yami was finding it very difficult to believe that this unfeeling white room was going to protect Aibou from anything.

But Aibou turned his head on the plain white pillow on the plain white bed—his hair stuck out against it like a multi-colored porcupine—and he smiled, and owing to some long-forgotten instinct that refused to leave, that made Yami calm.

Yami scrunched his eyebrows and rubbed his hands, and even he was unused to being able to see the wall through them. "Where is everyone?"

"Home." Aibou pushed himself up to sit, and even though the urge struck through Yami to tell him to lie back down, to rest, he restrained it. "They still have school tomorrow and visiting hours ended a while ago."


Yami decided not to ask what visiting hours were.

Silence fell over the room. There were machines scattered about, like the "oxygen mask" they had placed on Aibou's face earlier that day before he had woken up. Yami remembered it. Unfeeling, just like the room. Aibou was okay. He could feel that Aibou was okay.

And yet, seeing him like that, covered in scrapes and cuts and several burns, with a machine over his mouth …

"Mou hitori no boku?"

Yet again, Yami looked up.

"Yes, Aibou?" he asked, and though he had not intended it he heard his voice sound far too concerned. Aibou's eyebrows lowered, but he said nothing about it.

He looked at Yami for what felt like a long time. Yami was unused to seeing Aibou's bright violet eyes look so concentrated, so serious, and it came very close to making him uncomfortable. He shifted, and at last, Aibou looked away. He sighed. Then he shook his head.

"No. It's nothing."

Yami did not bother to say aloud that it was not nothing. And despite the worry that burned inside him, he refrained from asking the questions that swirled in his mind, threatening to implode.

But he stayed out a long time after Aibou went quiet, and a long time after he knew Aibou had nothing more to say.

It was night, as he found when he finally bothered to look out the window. He also found out when one of the nurses came in to check on Aibou, and she mentioned that it was getting time for bed.

Yami knew Aibou hated when she spoke to him like a child, but Aibou said nothing, so Yami just let himself smirk.

He stood in the corner of the room and watched her put a thin glass tube in Aibou's mouth, and look at some of the machines and ask him questions. He knew the woman could not see him, but somehow he felt like he shouldn't get in the way any more than he already had. He crossed his arms over his chest and leaned back against the wall, and he wondered in the back of his mind how it was that he didn't fall through the walls and floors just like everything else.

Aibou did not look over at him the whole time the nurse was there, and on some level, Yami was grateful.

He did not leave the corner when the nurse walked out the door and flicked off the lights. He looked at the door, and then back at Aibou, and he found Aibou looking out the window from his bed. The only light in the room came from the blinking machines, and from the moonlight that streamed in through the glass.

The glow reflected off Aibou's face and shimmered in eyes, and Yami could have sworn that boy had never, in all the time he had known him, looked so innocent.

Aibou was asleep ten minutes later. Yami could feel Aibou's consciousness grow tired and blurred, and just stood there and watched as he lay down on the pillow and pulled up the sheet and closed his eyes. He wasn't sure if Aibou knew he was still there. He supposed it didn't matter either way. He stayed right there by the wall, and he watched Aibou's breathing slow until his mind had drifted away.

He was tired. And he needed his rest.

Yami waited until every bit of him was sure that Aibou was asleep until he walked, step by step, across the floor that looked hard and cold until he stood at the side of the bed, looking down at the small boy resting under the sheet.

Aibou had saved his life. He knew he wasn't really alive, but Aibou had saved him nonetheless. He knew so little about himself, and he did not know for sure if he would disappear if the Puzzle were destroyed. But he could feel it. He was bound to the item. And if Aibou had left the Puzzle in the fire …

… if he had just escaped the danger and saved himself

A shudder that wasn't real went up Yami's spine, and he gripped his own arms and tried to drive the cold feeling away.

Fragmented memories shared over a mind link were no proper way to understand someone's past, he was sure. All he had of Aibou's life were bits and pieces, little flickers of images and emotion that had gone through Aibou's mind throughout their time together. Just that, and the knowledge that he had needed to protect. Nothing real. Nothing substantial.

And when he was separated from Aibou ... he had nothing at all.

The boy looked peaceful as he slept. All panic forgotten. Fear. Uncertainty. Those emotions had flooded across the link the instant the last piece of the Puzzle had clicked into place. Such darkness he had been pulled from, such horribly familiar nothingness like the nothingness that had come before he was saved the first time. And he returned to his own form of existence to the knowledge, the terrible, overwhelming feeling of Aibou's life slipping away before him.

Helpless. Grasping for something to save him, anything so he could save Aibou ...

But he was only a spirit. No body of his own. No way to do something as simple as saving the most important person in his world. Watching, alone, as Aibou's consciousness dimmed and the flames grew.

Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun arriving had been some kind of mercy on the part of the gods. Some tiny, incomprehensibly wonderful mercy. Then he could help. He could only send that one little idea to Jounouchi-kun's head, but somehow, that had been enough.

Aibou was alive. Aibou was alive.

But only because of that miracle.

Aibou twitched in his sleep, and Yami froze as he groaned and gripped the sheets around him with whitening knuckles. Something in Yami clicked, and in an amateur attempt to calm himself, he drew in a deep breath that was not really a breath and let it out slow. He felt the tension in him lessen. Aibou let go of the sheets.

Yami watched him more closely now, watched him relax once again, watched and felt as he sank deeper into his inner world of darkness and dreams. Yes. He was still bound to Aibou, even while he slept. And when his emotions turned to turmoil ... Aibou could feel that, too.

He sat down on the edge of the bed, though he couldn't feel the bed underneath him besides its energy, and he was careful not to move too quickly or too roughly, even though he knew he could bounce up and down like a monkey and the bed still would not shift. He glanced out the single window where the city of Domino sparkled below, and the moon shone, its light pale and soothing, above the world.

He looked down at Aibou. He looked at the way the boy's spiky hair melded as he rested his head against the pillow, lying only just on his side. His breathing shifted the sheets, slow, peaceful.

Everyone had always said that Aibou still looked like a child, and he had never really understood that. He saw innocence in Aibou, yes, more than in anyone else in his whole existence. He saw light, the likes of which one often never saw anywhere but in children. But he had never before seen a child in the teenager whose life he shared.

But as he stared down at him right now, and saw him sleep, saw him forget all about the horrendous events that had transpired just that same day, saw him forgive so easily things Yami couldn't forget for even a moment, saw the knowingness and yet blessed ignorance on the youthful face before him, a face which still had yet to lose all the pink baby fat on its cheeks …

For the very first time, Yami saw a child in Aibou. The very child he had sworn so long ago to protect.

The child he had come so very close to losing today, because that child had been trying to save him.

Yami sighed, heavy, and what would have been loud had he had a voice. He positioned himself more securely on the edge of the bed and sat under the moonlight, never taking his eyes off of the sleeping child, never letting the innocent he had almost lost forever out of his protective gaze.

If there had ever been a time when he was happier to be home, Yami had no memory of it.

Duelist Kingdom had been a close second. Of course, back then, Aibou had only just accepted him, and Yami had only just become fully aware that he was a being, all on his own, and in doing that, the world around him suddenly grew that much clearer. It was like coming home for the first time, back then, safe and sound, knowing that everyone they had worked so hard to save was alright at last.

But this was different. When Aibou stepped through the door into the game shop, Yami projected himself as quietly as he could behind him, just so he could take in the sight.

They were home. Safe and sound.

Except this time, he was all that much more aware of what he could have lost.

Things were quieter now. Jii-chan had gotten over his shock and rambling about Aibou being in the hospital and ordered take-out to eat in front of the television as celebration for him being home. Yami had stood beside the couch while Aibou and Jii-chan sat at the little table, scarfing down dinner with what Aibou called the "cheapest chopsticks this side of Hong Kong," and for the two hours they watched a movie, Yami watched Aibou.

Watched him sit there, content with everything, as if there had never been anything wrong in the first place. As if only the day before, he had not been risking his life in a burning building.

All to save the Puzzle.

That had felt like a very long movie to Yami.

He felt somehow uncomfortable, back in the Puzzle, though he couldn't tell if those feelings were his or not. Around him he saw that familiar—but never too familiar—labyrinth of doors, and yet he could still feel Aibou positioning himself on his bed later that evening. He could feel their connection dim, but only just, as Aibou removed the Puzzle and placed it in front of him. He could feel everything, as if he was the one doing it.

But he was not Aibou. Now that had proven all too true.

Even still, he could feel the memories as they rushed through Aibou's mind, playing back almost as clearly as the movie. Only real. The heat of the flames. The heat of the pieces of the Puzzle as they clicked back into place.

Yami had been consumed in darkness then. He did not remember. But through Aibou he could see. Through Aibou he could feel.

And through Aibou, he could feel the turmoil and pain that had once again surfaced in the boy's innocent mind.

Thank you.

He pushed the words through the mind link without even thinking about them, and yet somehow they seemed right.

He felt himself project his image next to Aibou, and this time, he wasn't sure whether he did it on purpose. "In that fire … you risked your life putting the Millennium Puzzle back together, for me."

Rarely did he make a habit of speaking aloud, even if the only voice he used was in Aibou's head. That also felt right. He didn't know why. But he pretended—if only for a second—that he was a real friend sitting next to Aibou on his bed, talking to him, thanking him as he should have been thanked from the beginning.

He felt something stir within Aibou, but for once, he couldn't make out what it was.

Aibou didn't meet his gaze.

"Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun were the ones who saved us."

A flicker of a smile crept its way onto Yami's face. He closed the eyes he was reminded did not exist. "It was, wasn't it?" He solidified his image, as much as he could, even though the process of doing so required more energy than he thought it was best to spend. He turned to look at Aibou, and he saw how real the moonlight was that reflected off his face. "We have good friends."

Aibou didn't look up. Yami was sure Aibou knew he was watching him. But still, Aibou stayed there, his arms wrapped around his legs and his chin resting on his knees. Something in Yami's chest ached.


That was the only thing he heard before Aibou went silent once again.

Yami shifted a little closer, like he supposed a real friend might do. The aching within him grew sharper. "What are you thinking now?"

Aibou stared at the bed in front of him, so quiet, saying so much without speaking. Yami wasn't sure if Aibou was fully aware of how clearly his emotions transferred over their link. Maybe he knew, or maybe he had no idea. But those feelings within him, swirling, confused, heavy, swirled within Yami in turn.

So very badly he wished Aibou would speak to him. He could sense the words behind Aibou's lips, though he could not yet read them. He supposed it was some of that leftover instinct from his early days to protect. An instinct he supposed would never truly go away.

If Aibou was unhappy, so was he.

He glanced at a spot on the floor at the foot of the bed, and a moment later, so effortless and yet still so inconceivably difficult, he stood there. He shuffled his feet on the carpet, even though he couldn't feel it under his toes, even though nothing shifted under the weight he didn't have. He put one hand in his pocket, out of the habit he had developed in Duelist Kingdom. He looked up again.

Aibou clutched his knees for such a very long time after that. Silence, minus the zooming cars and honking and birds chirping outside that Yami had finally managed to get used to. Silence, yet so much heaviness, and so much hurt.

And no words.

Aibou's legs slipped a bit under his grip, and Yami felt him wake from that near-trance. He put his hands out, almost as if to grab for the Puzzle, but he did not touch it. He leaned forward on his knees and then back on his toes. His eyes flicked up to meet Yami's own, and with another wave of emotion flashing through those big violet eyes, he drew in a breath.

"Who are you really?"

It was the last thing Yami had thought Aibou would say, and at the same time, it did not even remotely surprise him.

Aibou's voice had come out desperate, as if all that time he had spent in silence forced him to hold back his emotions, and now they came forth in a burst. Yami watched, not moving, not even blinking, with gentle eyes. Aibou shifted. "I want to know!"

"Why?" Yami's eyebrows furrowed, though only a little.

Aibou leaned back more on his toes, and for a moment, he broke Yami's gaze. "'Why'?" he repeated, the fire in his previous question gone, replaced by hesitancy and confusion. He looked down. "Well …"

Silence again. Yami waited for a moment, searching Aibou's face for any hint of what answer he might have given. But he knew there was none to be found. The aching in his chest changed, grew fainter, and yet somehow heavier and darker within him. Pain. Sad. It spread through him, quick as flames, but quiet. He closed his eyes and tilted his head to the floor. The tiniest of unreal smiles morphed his lips.

"I don't know anything."


He didn't need to open his eyes to sense Aibou looking at him again. He could imagine his violet eyes going wide, eyebrows raised, and he could feel the earlier hesitancy replaced by that feeling that came before disbelief. Or belief, as uncertain and vague as one could make it.

The pain remained, and yet he opened his eyes and stared back at Aibou with the determined gaze he had come to be known by. As if everything was certain. As if everything was okay.

"I thought you'd ask me someday." He did not blink, and Aibou did not move, watching him, waiting. The memories in Yami's mind were so far away most of the time, so difficult to reach, yet these things he knew. He felt his face grow firm and sure, and he wasn't sure whether it was of his own will. "And I thought … when that time came, I wouldn't lie to you."

The Puzzle glinted in the moonlight, and streams of images and sensations and sounds shot through him in a split second. Emotions. Confusion, uncertainty, that horrendous sense of being lost, of having nowhere to belong. And yet that knowledge that he had to protect. That it didn't matter what happened to him. It only mattered to protect the only thing he knew.

Mou hitori no ore.

"My name, where I came from … I don't know anything."

He cocked his head a little, and he did not take his eyes off of Aibou. The smile that had faded returned, though it was still so small. It was more real now. It hurt. But the pain didn't matter. It didn't matter as long as he could keep what he had gained. It never mattered. Because being here made him …

… happy.

The smile quirked the tiniest bit more. "I have no memories at all."

Aibou's eyes had remained wide, his eyebrows up, his tiny mouth hanging open if only a little. He blinked, once, not quite breaking from his trance, but proving to Yami that he had heard.

"'Who am I?'" The smile settled comfortably on his face. "I don't know."

He supposed that after all the times Aibou had gone silent, he would have gotten used to it. It felt less worrying, and the ache in his chest didn't feel quite as sharp. But it still hurt. It hurt to not know what Aibou was thinking, was feeling, anything more than the jumbled mess of emotions that made their way across the link.

Aibou had stared at him for a while, and then he had looked away. He hadn't said anything. But he hadn't really needed to. Yami couldn't truly understand the pieces of Aibou's emotions he felt. But he could still feel them. And somehow, he doubted Aibou understood those emotions any more than he did.

Yami found a new place to stand, arms crossed over his chest, leaning against the desk under the skylight even though the desk offered no support. It hadn't been all that long ago when he hadn't even mastered the concentration required to stand as he did, so casual and almost natural, as if he had a body of his own. The first time he had tried it, back when materializing was still new and unfamiliar, he had fallen straight through the table he had chosen to lean against and ended up on his back on the floor, feet in the air, eyes wide, and arms sprawled out to his sides.

He allowed himself the tiniest ironic smirk at the memory. Luckily for him, at that time, Aibou hadn't been quite aware enough of his existence to see him.

Maybe someday he would tell him.

Aibou readjusted himself as well, sliding his legs off the bed and picking up the Puzzle in both his hands. The chain jingled against the gold. Yami liked the chain. It matched better than the rope, it was more secure, and it really did suit Aibou.

But a piece of rope would have been a lot easier to break from the platform than a chain …

"I'm sorry."

Yami looked up.

Aibou wasn't looking at him. Yami could see his eyes, glowing in the moonlight, with his eyebrows turned up near the center, like there was some deep-rooted sadness within him he tried to deny but could not quite hold back. His tiny mouth frowned, lips pursed. The expression did not suite his face.

He breathed in. "I know I'm the one who brought it up, but …"

He stopped, words trailing into nothing. He gripped the Puzzle tighter between his fingers, and Yami wondered if he was imagining that he could feel his very spirit shifting at the contact.

"Let's stop … talking about stuff like this."

Yami leaned forward, and turned his gaze so he could see as much of Aibou and his expressions as his position would allow. His eyebrows lowered, and he felt his face stiffen.

"The only thing I do know …" He paused, but the fiery determination burning within him, mixing with the ache in his chest, did not falter. "As long as you have the Millennium Puzzle, I can exist here."

Aibou looked down further, still not daring to meet Yami's eyes. Yami could sense his grip on the Puzzle tighten more. He could not just hear but truly feel the emotions crowding within the boy, pushing, fighting for freedom. Held back.


Yami turned away. The ache remained. His heart burned, and he almost forgot Aibou had spoken at all. "But I—"


It was not often that Yami was truly startled. But the voice, that breaking, young, innocent voice, crying out, the emotions that flooded over the link like someone had knocked a hole in a dam, the sight of Aibou standing from the bed, Puzzle now squeezed as he held it near his face …

He almost jumped forward, and he felt his eyes go wide and his eyebrows rise. His hands had started to move to his middle in the defensive position he had learned long ago. But he held them back, and for a moment, he only stared.

Tears were a new phenomenon to Yami. He had only felt them once himself, when he had dueled Jounouchi-kun, and even then, he wasn't sure if those were his tears or Aibou's. Sometimes it was hard to tell the difference. And he had felt them pressing to get out when Aibou had almost been lost. That time, they had been his own, though back then he had not been quite certain of what they were.

Water leaking from the eyes. Logically, it made little sense from what he knew of other human characteristics. And yet so very powerful. The glimmering tears brimming in Aibou's large violet eyes, his face scrunched, his breaths shaking and with the tiniest hints of whimpers hidden within them, even though Yami knew he was trying to hide it.

His Aibou was crying. Crying … for him.

He stared for a moment longer, watching this, resisting the deep-rooted instinct to seek out what made Aibou hurt. He looked at the boy in front of him, and he watched the parts of him that were a growing duelist and young man and the parts of him that were still a small, innocent, so very naïve child, meld and mix and taint one another, and yet help one another grow.

Yami closed his eyes, only for a second, and he felt the aching in his chest—and even the fire in his heart—dim and fade into nothingness. Peace. He opened his eyes, and though he did not give it permission, he did not fight the relaxed smile that pulled its way onto his face.

"I want to be with you forever."

Aibou's grip on the Puzzle loosened, and Yami could better see his face lose so much of its tension as he lowered his hands. The tears still brimmed there, never falling, but never disappearing. His eyes were large. His mouth hung open, if only a little.

Yami stepped in front of him to look him straight in the eyes. "Even if I don't get my memories back."

Something snapped within Aibou. Yami could almost hear it, and he heard the Puzzle chain jingling again as Aibou stepped forward, only once, but enough to close much of the space between them.

"Me too … me too, always. I …"

Aibou's eyes closed, and the tears finally gave in and streamed in rivulets down his pink cheeks. They glimmered under the moonlight, and Yami thought they looked like stars. And even as Yami watched Aibou tremble, heard his voice crack and break, the aching in his chest did not return.

Aibou squeezed those eyes shut. "I'll give you all of my memories!"

The place in his chest that had once ached was replaced by a feeling he did not know. But it wasn't bad. Of that he was sure.

The smile on his face grew. It settled there, as did his relaxed expression. He watched Aibou for a moment. Only a moment. And this time, he was fully aware of both his hands moving from his sides. He was aware—and content—as both his hands, quite transparent, and yet glowing in the moonlight, came to rest over Aibou's own fingers around the Puzzle. He imagined he could feel the life there, the pulse, the rushing blood. He imagined that he was not imagining it at all.

Aibou opened his eyes and looked at him once again. The tears still streamed, still glimmered, but Aibou's face had changed. The jumbled mess of emotions faded, and Yami could sense only the peace that had settled deep within his own heart.

Not a single word was spoken. And yet so very much was said.

And that was all he could have wished.

Yami had retreated to the Puzzle when Aibou moved to change into his pajamas and get ready for bed. It was the only polite thing to do, in his eyes, not only from what he had learned about modern privacy and manners, but simply out of respect.

He stayed in the Puzzle as Aibou tucked himself under the covers and closed his eyes. He had felt, but not seen, the tiny smile on his face as his consciousness drifted away. He could feel the dried tears around his eyes, and he could feel the lightness and something vaguely akin to happiness floating about in Aibou's heart.

Once he was absolutely certain Aibou was asleep, he came out.

He stood by the side of the bed, right where the moonlight streamed in not only from the window but from the skylight above. He watched the moonbeams hit the floor and reflect, and he imagined that they reflected off his own form as well. His transparent fingers twitched, and his gaze fell upon the sleeping boy.

From what he could remember of his early days—and those early days were growing more and more vague and clouded as time passed on—he had only had one purpose: protect. Protect, keep from harm, and make anyone who caused him pain pay.

Nothing else had mattered. And pain to the boy whose vessel he shared—pain to the boy who was him, or had been for so long—had seemed like a perfectly good reason to call shadow games on high school delinquents.

Aibou hadn't yet brought up the topic of the things he had done in his early days, and he was rather hoping they could just avoid it.

Once he had been there long enough to need a reason for what he was doing, something more than the pain and the nearly irresistible urge to punish, only one thing had crossed his mind. One flicker of a thought that grew and grew and surrounded itself with enough raw feeling to be significant.

That he owed him.

What his life had been like in the early days was blurry now. It was almost impossible to truly remember what things had been like before the Puzzle had been solved. But never, not even if he lived for thousands upon thousands of years more, could he forget the moment he had been freed.

The moment Aibou had freed him.

The darkness dispelled. Replaced by light. Emotion flooding in where nothing had been. Overwhelming, yes, but so very wonderful at the same time. Sensation, reality, tangible reality.

And a split second later, the vicious need to protect.

Aibou had not known that there was a spirit living inside the Millennium Puzzle when he solved it. Yami could pick up that much from what he had seen. But Aibou had still saved him. Pulled him into a new world of feeling, a world where he wasn't alone. Aibou had done for him more than he thought anyone could ever be asked to do for another being in an entire lifetime.

And for that, Yami had to do everything he could to repay him.

But in all his repayment, in all the time he had been here doing whatever he could to give back to that pure young boy, the feeling had always lingered that he was a burden. He was a difficulty. He was like a parasite that had stuck to an unwilling host and refused to let go.

The thought had never crossed his mind for even an instant—not even after the fire—that Aibou wanted him to stay.

The moon shone again on Aibou's face as he breathed in and out, in and out, his mouth open the tiniest bit, the covers moving as his chest rose and fell. The bed molded more naturally around him here than at the hospital. Here, he was in his own place of belonging. Here, he was home.

And Yami was home, too.

Yami felt his lips twitching up into a smile, and this time, he did not resist it. He reached out one hand that he knew did not exist. He ran the tip of his finger along Aibou's pink-tinted cheek, just so it looked as if he could touch him. And he imagined he could feel the smooth skin of Aibou's face, a face that had so often been his as well, feeling as it might have if Aibou was as young as his innocence made him seem.

Aibou twitched, though he did not wake, and he snuggled deeper under the covers within his pale blue pajamas. Yami's finger followed him, and Yami almost thought he saw Aibou's mouth turn up in the tiniest of smiles as well. The smile of a child who knows that everything is going to be alright. Yami's own smile grew.

Yes, he would protect him.

He would protect his precious Aibou.

Yami closed his eyes and vanished once more into the quiet rest of the Puzzle, feeling the world disappear around him, and feeling the familiar, comforting, real sensation of Aibou's dreams in his mind.

Dreams of all their adventures yet to come.