A/N: This follows loosely on from 'What You Bargain For', but it's not necessary to read WYBF before reading this. Technically this is an AU, since it expresses a explanation of the bond between Yuugi and Atem that diverges from canon. In this story, Atem and Yuugi share a soul and a body but each possesses his own mind. I can't really explain it properly without ruining the potential sequel; it's probably best to say that the characters don't really understand it at this point, so neither should anyone else :)
This fic occurs after Battle City and before the Dartz arc; it features Atem having used his Shadow magic, however, so I guess even being Battle City Champion doesn't necessarily keep Yuugi from being harassed when his friends aren't around. .
Disclaimer – I do not own Yu-Gi-Oh!
The first thing he hears when he climbs the stairs to his boyfriend's room is the sound of retching.
Jounouchi hesitates on the landing, disorientated by the sudden rush of worry, then hurries to the bathroom. His heart clenches at the sight that meets him; curled up around the toilet basin, the very picture of misery, Yuugi groans as his stomach rebels, coughing weakly into the bowl, pale and sweating. Shuddering in the grip of the spasm, he doesn't notice Jounouchi's entrance into the room, nor the splash and gurgle as he pours a glass of water.
He starts when Jounouchi kneels down behind him, struggles against the arms that gather him up then, "Jounouchi-kun?"
"I've got you," Jounouchi says, relieved to feel Yuugi relax into his embrace, and lifts the water to his lips. "Small sips, huh?" he instructs, when trembling fingers curl around the glass to steady it.
"Thank you," Yuugi sighs, twisting to settle more comfortably between Jounouchi's knees. "Dinner was probably a mistake," he adds, his head lolling sideways into Jounouchi's chest. His breath is still sour with bile and he grasps for the water a second time, whining a protest when he's only allowed a mouthful.
"Sounds that way." Jounouchi ignores the nagging thought that he should get Yuugi up off the freezing tiled floor, concentrating instead on the ragged rhythm of his breathing and the tremors still
running through his limbs. He lets Yuugi take another couple of sips, then sets the glass aside. "Guess the other Yuugi's been using the Shadows again."
He doesn't mean it to sound accusing but the bitterness creeps into his voice despite himself. Yuugi stiffens a little.
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Jounouchi says, hurriedly, dropping a kiss to Yuugi's sweat-damp forehead, "He only does it when he has no other choice, but...does he know what it does to you?"
Yuugi shakes his head. "Of course not," he says, softly. "If he knew, he'd never let the Shadows anywhere near me."
"He's trying to keep me safe, even if he has to hurt himself to do it; I don't think a little stomach upset is enough to balance that scale."
Jounouchi wants to protest – this isn't a stomach upset, this is Yuugi's body going into shut-down against the invading darkness, his every nerve ending and capillary setting alight to burn out the malingering black energy – but Yuugi just peers up at him with pained, weary eyes, mouth tight with misery, and he's not strong enough to add to that unhappiness. "All right, let's get you up," he says instead. He manoeuvres them both up, mindful of Yuugi's still-shaky legs, and sweeps his lover off his feet before he can protest.
Yuugi yelps, hands flailing. "W-wait! I can walk, you don't have to-"
"No, I don't, but I'm going to."
"Hey, how often do I get to play the hero?"
Yuugi subsides, the heat of his blush burning through Jounouchi's T-shirt. He weighs as little as Shizuka in Jounouchi's arms. The blond carries him into the bedroom, laying Yuugi down on rumpled sheets where he struggles upright as soon as Jounouchi releases him, the flush of embarrassment still red in his cheeks. "I could have walked," he murmurs, shifting awkwardly into a more comfortable position.
Jounouchi tries not to grin. "Sure you could. And Kaiba can go an entire duel without summoning his Blue Eyes." Yuugi's mouth curls into a reluctant smile at that and Jounouchi silently congratulates himself. "So, uh, you need anything? Your grandpa might have something to take the edge off."
"No, it's late," Yuugi says, with a shrug of his shoulders, rubbing absent-mindedly at his stomach. "I don't want to bother him, he'll be going to bed."
"...He's your grandpa, man, I don't think he'll mind being woken up if you're sick."
"I'm fine, honestly." Yuugi says, reaching out to touch Jounouchi's arm. "Can you stay?"
Jounouchi allows himself to be tugged forwards, clambering onto the bed at Yuugi's urging and leaning into to press a quick kiss to his boyfriend's lips. "Of course," he says, settling next to him and sliding an arm around his waist. "You sure you don't want anything?"
The relieved sigh that Yuugi breaths as he curls into Jounouchi's embrace is all the answer he needs. They lie quietly together, Yuugi's head heavy on Jounouchi's chest, the wild spray of his hair ticklish-soft against the blond's throat, and Jounouchi drops a kiss into the unruly mane, amused to feel Yuugi wriggle in response.
"How is the other Yuugi? I mean, if you're throwing up..."
Yuugi wriggles again, this time worming a hand between them to tug the Puzzle free, raising it to place it on Jounouchi's stomach; heavy, as it always is, the metal glows with Yuugi's warmth, glittering even in the dim light of the room. "He's resting," Yuugi says, tracing the outline of the eye in the Puzzle's frontpiece. "He always retreats after using the Shadows. They...darken him."
And then there are the words he's not saying that Jounouchi hears as clearly as if they'd been spoken aloud. They darken him, and he doesn't want them to hurt me. He rubs Yuugi's back, acknowledging the statement for what it is. "I hope he realises how scary he is when he goes all 'King of Games' on people."
"Oh, he does," Yuugi replies, with a chuckle. "Don't tell him I said this, but I think he rather likes it."
"And you don't?"
There is a long pause, during which Jounouchi continues to stroke Yuugi's back, then Yuugi's fingers still against golden metal. "I don't like that he does it for me," he says, his voice low. "He's always...Even though we're looking for answers to his past, he won't use the Shadows unless I'm in danger. The Dark Games, it- it's just like back then..."
Ushio's face flashes before Jounouchi's eyes, twisted with insanity, the first of a sequence that he consciously closes his mind to, deafening himself to numerous memories of tortured screams. "He ain't like that now, he's changed."
"Not in himself," Yuugi insists. "But for me...When he invokes them, when they take hold of him, he's- He's not-" He tails off with a shudder.
Jounouchi's hand halts its movement, instead curling into the material of Yuugi's shirt. "He's not the other you any more," he finishes, quietly.
Yuugi nods, turning his face back into Jounouchi's neck, his eyelashes tickling against his skin as purple-blue eyes clench shut. He stutters for a moment, then "Are there three people in my head?" he whispers, with a sudden surge of desperation.
Before Jounouchi can answer, the Puzzle begins to glow where it rests on his stomach, a low golden shimmer that throbs brighter and hotter with every gasp of Yuugi's breath against his throat. Within seconds, the gentle warmth has become searing heat, almost unbearable, enough to distract him from the shivering body in his arms. He rolls his shoulder up, trying to shake the Puzzle free without dislodging Yuugi, but the movement draws his lover's attention and Yuugi flinches with surprise, grabbing for the pendant, which cools the instant he touches it, its light dimming to nothing.
For a moment, neither of them speaks, both staring at the artefact, then Yuugi's brow furrows. "Other Me, are you there?"
Silence. Apparently both inside and out, for Yuugi's eyes remain clear.
Jounouchi lets out a long breath he hadn't noticed he was holding. "Guess that means there's only two of you, as far as the Puzzle's concerned."
Yuugi looks up, this new confusion warring with older, deeper quandary for control of his features.
"Perhaps..." He sits up abruptly, pulling himself free of Jounouchi's embrace; the blond follows suit, ducking to keep eye contact. There's a sober, serious cast to Yuugi's expression, the quiet confidence of a difficult decision made, and he takes Jounouchi's right hand in his left, slotting their fingers together with the ease of long practice, and raises it to rest against his cheek. "Or maybe there is someone else."
His skin is warm, perhaps too warm given the temperature of the room, and Jounouchi feels that heat flush through him. "Yuugi?"
Peculiar violet-blue eyes meet his, affection crinkling their corners. "If- If I were to- To ask you for something..." Yuugi trails off, biting his lip, eyes sliding to the side. Jounouchi knows that look; this, again, is something to do with the other Yuugi, something to do with that bond that he's not a part of and shouldn't, can't, be jealous of. Jounouchi's carried the weight of the Puzzle around his neck before, felt the stomach-clenching tug of its burden, heard a deep voice turn desperate inside his own head, and he knows better than to close his heart to it. The other Yuugi is his best friend, after all.
He tightens his grip on his boyfriend's hand, just for a couple of seconds. What do you need, love?
The Puzzle's chain chinks as Yuugi shifts in place, still worrying at his lower lip. "I- If I were to ask you..." Words fail him again, language falling short, and he shakes his head in frustration; Jounouchi's heart clutches in his chest, feeling, not for the first time, a pang of regret that he is not the one who lives in Yuugi's heart, who can communicate the simplest and most complex flashes of emotion with just a brush of his mind.
Yuugi gets his attention by tugging again, this time sliding their joined hands under the cool metal of his chain to rest against his chest, just over his heart. "If I opened-" Yuugi says, words faltering even as he speaks them. "If- If I let you in here," he continues, tapping his chest, "would- would you..." He stops again, letting out a huff of frustration.
He doesn't really understand what's being asked of him – when has this boy's life ever made the slightest bit of sense? - but he does know the answer to any question concerning Yuugi's heart, so he sits up to press his forehead to Yuugi's, nuzzling. "I know better than to trespass there."
As if in agreement, the Puzzle chimes against its chain a second time. This close, its sharp edges dig into Jounouchi's stomach, the metal no longer hot but almost as warm as Yuugi's skin, and Yuugi leans up the last scant centimetres it takes to kiss him; the warmth of his skin is nothing to the heat of his mouth. Jounouchi hums happily as Yuugi's tongue flickers against his lips, lets his lover steal his smile away with leisurely, loving caresses and laps at the sore spot where Yuugi was biting his lip.
"Y'should be more careful," he hears himself murmur, when Yuugi squirms away in protest, and the other boy shakes his head, his spiked bangs tangling with Jounouchi's shaggy mop.
"You're one to talk, Jounouchi-kun," he replies, already a little out of breath.
Jounouchi's lips curl, catching on his boyfriend's, and he licks into Yuugi's mouth with a fervency that has Yuugi gasping for half a second before Jounouchi's lips cover his, tongue pushing greedily in to entice him into further play. Yuugi tilts his head, their noses brushing, and the slipslide of his tongue alongside Jounouchi's sends a delicious thrill through the blond's body.
Oh this boy, this boy...He will never make sense, never in a thousand years could Jounouchi hope to understand him, even without the whirlwind gusts of magic and darkness that the fates insist on twining about him. He will never understand the stop-and-start silliness of his thoughts, or the bottomless depths of his heart, or the seeming eternity of his faith, but he knows the taste of Yuugi's mouth, the slick twist of his tongue, how to make him breathless with pleasure.
Yuugi makes a sound low in his throat, desperation again, but of a far more urgent sort. It brings Jounouchi to what little he has left of his senses, and he releases Yuugi's mouth with one last, lingering caress. "You were sayin'?" he manages to pant.
Kiss-reddened lips purse, not quite a pout, then Yuugi lets go of his hand. "Close your eyes," he instructs, and Jounouchi feels him trace out a symbol on his forehead. "My mind is open," Yuugi murmurs, then callused fingertips retreat, reappearing at his torso to retracing the symbol over Jounouchi's heart. "My heart is open." The next touch makes him jump, Yuugi's hand brushing against the very bottom of his stomach, where the throb of arousal threatens. "My body is open."
The symbols tingle where they were traced, a curious buzzing, tickling sort of hum resonating through them, then Yuugi presses close and Jounouchi swallows hard at the brush of moist breath on his lips. "Open your eyes."
He does so, sees closed eyelids mere millimetres from his own, wants to kiss...Yuugi's lips move against his, as if he knows. "Now open your eyes again."
Any protest he might think to make is stifled when Yuugi actually does kiss him, prying his lips apart to delve inside, and Jounouchi feels his blood rush, and keep rushing, then there is a roaring in his ears that threatens to overwhelm him, heat shocking against his tongue, the smell of Yuugi's hair and he opens his eyes again to see...
"Just a moment."
He is firmly shushed and subsides, willing to play along for the moment, and focuses on this other senses. Wherever they are (he's under no illusion about the fact that they have somehow moved), the air is dry and cold. It's quiet, but organically so – the full, brimming sort of quiet found in the middle of a forest, alive with the indistinguishable rustles and whispers and chirrups of nature. And yet, there is a quality of...openness. The air is still, not the slightest hint of a breeze, but he has a sense of being surrounded by nothingness, by emptiness. It smells fresh, lacking the arid heat of a desert or the heavy damp of a woodland, or the bitter sourness of a city.
Yuugi is muttering under his breath, the words more a feeling against Jounouchi's face than a sound, and his skin prickles where Yuugi drew those symbols. Slowly, oh so slowly, a light shimmers into existence between them – the ghost of a Puzzle, slung around Yuugi's neck. Yuugi glances up, the corners of his eyes crinkling with fond amusement, and presses a quick, impulsive kiss to his lips as if he can't not. "You can look now."
Jounouchi quashes the urge to protest, latent arousal pulsing with Yuugi's touch, and pulls back to look about him. The sight utterly mystifies him; gone are night-darkened walls, the simple bed – instead, the landscape, if it can be so called, is devoid of any recognizable fixtures. It is a swirling mass of colours and textures, as full and empty as the oblivion at the end of dreams, an endless kaleidoscope with no beginning and no end.
He turns back to Yuugi, uncomprehending, and sees him smile. "It's your soul," Yuugi says, wonder in his tone; he reaches out to stroke a nearby patch of colour, dark purple shading to burgundy, and the inky darkness flows easily over his hand, coiling back to cover his arm. He laughs, delightedly. "I think you like me!"
"Thought you might have realised that by now," he hears himself say, on autopilot. His mind has stuttered to a complete halt. My...soul? How can that be-
"It's quite simple, actually," Yuugi says, as a teasing flicker of puce darts across his torso, "a little Puzzle magic, a little telepathy, a healthy dose of desperate hope that it works and voila! You're floating in soulspace."
"And reading minds, apparently," Jounouchi counters, dryly, but it's worth it, being suddenly yanked away from a world that makes sense, to see the accustomed fatigue fade from beloved features, to see Yuugi looking like he did before Marik's insanity began to split his heart in two. He takes Yuugi's hand, suddenly needy for the feel of him, and finds himself falling back on that same old bravado, a shield against the strangeness. "So, er, how's my soul looking, anyway? You're the expert on this stuff."
Yuugi tilts his head, yellow chasing alabaster chasing turquoise in ripples up his legs and over his waist, and the look in his eyes makes Jounouchi's stomach seize; no one could ever look at Jounouchi with such affection, he could never deserve so much warmth from one person, surely not... "Oh, Jounouchi-kun," the boy says, gripping his hand as if he never wants to let go. "You're magnificent."
The seething morass flexes around them at that,convulsing with the rush of Jounouchi's emotions; he clutches Yuugi's hand, his heart too full, the feelings too goddamned big for him to handle, and cannot bring himself to meet violet-blue eyes for a moment. It is only when Yuugi gasps that he can look up again to see the myriad hues rush to consume his lover, incandescent darkness spiralling, cradling and consuming him. Jounouchi tugs at the hand in his, dragging Yuugi closer. "Don't think my soul knows how to play nice," he murmurs, the frantic motions of soul energy feeling gossamer-light against his skin despite the obvious effect they're having on Yuugi.
His boyfriend's eyes are heavy-lidded now, sultry, their brightness shadowed. He leans against Jounouchi's shoulder, seemingly overwhelmed, and hums in agreement. "T-Typical. I reveal the true nature of your soul, and the first thing it does is try to s-seduce me."
"Is it working?"
Yuugi's laugh shatters the mood, even as a curious tendril of energy traces up the slender lines of his throat, drawing Jounouchi's gaze to the open shirt neck and the tantalising glimpse of his collarbone. "Hey," Yuugi says, nudging him. "Y'know, we couldn't have come here if you hadn't wanted it. Wanted...us."
He opens his mouth to reply, but there are no words he can say to that. They don't use words for what they have, it merely is, without definition, without the messy incompetence of language to describe it, limit it. Yuugi offers a little shrug of his shoulders, as if Jounouchi's response had been a verbal one. "You want to look into mine? You don't have to, not if you don't want, but-"
Jounouchi halts him with a nod. "Fair's fair," he says, gently, and watches Yuugi absorb his decision, taking a deep breath to steel himself. Jounouchi closes his eyes for this transition; Yuugi's soul will be supreme light, he decides, a vast flaming sea of unconquerable purity, pale and golden and impossible to stare at without being changed for the better.
He could not have been more wrong.
Instead of a glacial shift of endless colours and shapes, he opens his eyes to a still, twisted landscape. Jagged, gaping tears rip through the fabric of Yuugi's soulspace, staining it. The only evidence of white fires reside in great looping scars like burn marks and the odd, isolated flicker of light at the edge of sight.
This is a soul in peril.
Yuugi's face, when Jounouchi turns back to him, is solemn, though not regretful. He shrugs again, in answer to the unasked question that's burning Jounouchi's throat. "My soul is not my own," he says, simply. "I contain the soul of the Nameless Pharaoh, not the soul of Yuugi Mutou."
"...But you- You're a different person, you're you." Jounouchi squeezes Yuugi's fingers between his, doesn't understand. "How can you- You must have a soul!"
The Chosen Duellist shakes his head. "The other me...well. We're one body, one soul and," he smiles, taps the side of his head, "two minds."
Mind Shuffle! Jounouchi blinks, clearing memories of Duellist Kingdom from his eyes. "Two minds...But you...You were you before the other Yuugi, before you solved the Puzzle, you've always been-" The quiet boy, content to play games inside his own head, smiling to himself as the world points, sniggers, passes him by, right up until...No! Not that! It's my treasure, please!
He looks again, really looks, sees Yuugi's careful, content smile, the ease with which he holds himself, and remembers the little ghost that used to sit in their classes, never quite whole, never quite there. "Yuugi..."
"You should see the other me's soul," Yuugi says, as if he hadn't just revealed that he was irretrievably incomplete as a person. "It's pretty dramatic, Jounouchi-kun." That smile, jeez, as if Yuugi didn't already break his heart with every look. "I don't mind sharing."
"Do you have a choice?" he hears himself ask, bitterness new in his tone; he hadn't realised he was angry, too bowled over by the revelation to notice the burn of his own emotion, but he realises it now, feels disbelief boil away before his fury. "Did the Puzzle know what it was doing, chewing you up and spitting you out like that?"
"Jounouchi-kun." His voice is so goddamned calm. "The Puzzle didn't-"
"Well who the hell did?" he snaps, impotent rage beginning to surge inside him. He couldn't protect Yuugi from this, from Fate, not even the other Yuugi could do that, and the powerlessness of it hurt. "This isn't some lost memories or a pile of gold pieces, this is your soul, what right-"
Yuugi's fingers find his cheek, halting his outburst with a single caress. "I told you," he says, and his voice might still be steady but his eyes are brimming with compassion, with understanding, as if Jounouchi is the one who needs either of those things. "Two minds, one soul, remember? Besides, it's not completely empty round here."
A flicker of movement catches Jounouchi's eye before he can question his lover and he turns, Yuugi's hand slipping off his face, to see a pale wisp of colour dart past, settling for a moment against the scarred wretchedness of the soulscape before fluttering away. It circles them, changing shade and hue as they watch, growing steadily more substantial with each heartbeat. "Yuugi," Jounouchi breathes, anger dissipating before the merrily-dancing sprite, "is that-"
"You," comes the reply, soft and sweet. "I hope you don't mind."
So this is what Yuugi had been trying to ask for. Jounouchi watches the iridescence caper, feeling a slight tug just below his breastbone. A piece of him, the tiniest piece, lodged in the empty space where Yuugi's soul should be. He turns back to Yuugi, the boy's hand still in his, and drops a kiss to his forehead. "Close your eyes," he says, and just like that, they are back in Yuugi's room, slumped together on Yuugi's bed.
Yuugi's weight is welcome in his arms, solid and reassuring, and he feels the bunch of muscles under his fingers and Yuugi wriggles up to grin at him. "Now there are definitely three people in my head," he says, with a certain degree of impish satisfaction.
Jounouchi laughs, can't help himself, and rolls them over with an abrupt heave to pin Yuugi beneath him, ignoring his boyfriend's startled yelp. Arousal shudders through his veins, his body still pulsing the throb of Yuugi's heartbeat, and he moves to straddle Yuugi's waist, the evidence of his intentions darkening Yuugi's eyes. "Bet I can think of other places where I might fit," he says, pushing aside the memory of that scarred soulscape to focus on the living, breathing, laughing form trapped in his embrace.
"Jounouchi-kun..." Yuugi's cheeks flush, his laughter audibly catching, and he slides his arms around Jounouchi's back. "You know, the other me is asleep right now and...and it's still early."
"And we don't have school tomorrow," Jounouchi concludes, happily. "Want to play a game?"
He cheats, of course. It's the only way to defeat the King of Games.
Ah, but how does all of this match up with the Orichalcos soul-stealing and various other canon facts? Fear not, all will be revealed in the final instalment! Assuming that I get around to actually writing it...For now, let's just say that Yuugi's understanding of the situation isn't exactly accurate!