A/N: For the YGO writing contest Season 10 Round 1. Crushshipping – Honda x Shizuka x Otogi. Set in the Virtual World where Yuugi… won. (Also needs a backstory on that aspect, orz.) Title shamelessly stolen from the song by Death Cab For Cutie with the same name.
Dislaimer: Kazuki Takahashi and all associated companies are the rightful owners of the Yu-Gi-Oh! franchise. As I am not a part of that, this is for non-profit amusement purposes only, with no intention to infringe on the copyright.
Warnings: worksafe, but may be a little bit disturbing around the edges.
I Will Follow
(You Into The Dark)
Every morning she wakes up hoping that it's all just a bad dream. Every morning she wakes up hoping to find herself back in her room, in her own bed with the off-white ceiling above her. She hopes that, when she turns on her side, she'll see her table, her chair, her bookshelf, her clothes and precious items from friends. Somewhere there should be a picture of her and her brother. She can't see any of that. It's almost like being blind all over again, except this time she isn't. Though she can see now, she wishes she couldn't.
"Shizuka?" Otogi leans over her, one hand gently on her shoulder. "Are you awake? It's time to move again."
With a sigh, she sits up and looks at him. The dark rims around his eyes seem to have grown darker than in the days (weeks? months? eternities?) before. He hasn't slept much. He never does, lately. Her gaze travels around the small space in search of Honda, locates him and stays fixed on his back for a moment. Then, she is crawling over to him and shaking his shoulder to wake him up.
"Honda? Honda, we have to go."
He wakes with a start, almost hitting her with a flailing arm, but she's already used to it and knows to dodge in time. The first time he bumped her on the nose quite painfully and was so grief-stricken and self-deprecating for the best part of the day that her constant reassurance of being okay did nothing to calm him.
"I feel like I haven't slept at all," Honda grumbles, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and he might as well be speaking for the three of them.
The world around them is crumbling, piece by piece, pixel by pixel; loose bytes scattering into a massive pool of black nothingness. Every now and then a thin colourful thread of collapsing information spears through it, but nothing else happens. Nothing, but the spreading darkness which eats away at the Virtual World with a slow and steady rhythm.
They haven't seen anyone else in days. Or maybe months, or years. They don't know how much time has passed since they've been trapped in Noa's world. They don't know how the time in-game correlates to the time in the real world. They don't know who won and who lost or whether there were any duels carried out at all. They don't know where Yuugi is, or Anzu, or Jounouchi, or the Kaibas. All they can do to survive in this corrupted world is keep moving. From one slowly splintering island of cohesive data to another. Over dilapidated bridges of information suspended above mute darkness with occasional glimmers of rainbow threads trying to distract them and lure them into falling. Down half-ruined corridors that lead from one nowhere to another, up seemingly endless stairs toward doors that open up into blackness, along train tracks that run between crumbling pieces of fractal sky. They can see other islands of fractured data in the vast sea of virus-infested binary, but they are all distant and slowly falling apart. Maybe one of those is the final refuge for their friends, maybe they're struggling to find a way out the same way the three of them are doing right now, maybe they've already been swallowed by the massive black wave of information. There is no way of knowing for sure.
"Is it just me or is the world falling apart faster?" Honda grouses, as they trek along a ruined train track. Below them is a boiling field of magma which is slowly crumbling away around the edges.
"No," Otogi shakes his head, keeping his gaze on the tracks just in case it decides to drop off a few bytes and spontaneously acquire a loose joint or a corroded hole. "The speed is the same. There's just less in this world."
Shizuka walks silently between them. At this point, they've already exhausted all of the topics they could speak about. There's nothing left to discuss aside from 'how fast do you think this track will crumble?', 'do you think we'll be able to stay on this island longer than we did in that room?', 'what if this staircase ends up in another black pit?', 'I wonder if the others are okay', 'they can't be dead, can they?'. She can only carry on walking and carry a hope for them to be safe in her heart. She has cried and despaired, but that's in the past now. Where they are going, there is no room for wailing and being weak.
The train tracks split. One branch runs into a tunnel and at the end of that tunnel is a perpetual darkness. The other one arches off and disappears behind a waterfall of falling pixelly sky.
"Where to?" Otogi asks cryptically because both options seem equally bad.
"There's no way I'm going in there," Honda jerks his head toward the tunnel. "It's so dark in there. We won't even know when we fall into the black mess."
Their eyes turn toward the rainbow-coloured pieces falling down in a slow stream. While the guys hesitate, Shizuka takes her first steps to the left. Her eyes stray all the way up to the sky and follow a chunk of blue data break away and fall down. It fades into transparency first before briefly glinting in all the colours of the world and becoming one with the murky pool of data.
"This way we'll know when it strikes," she says silently and keeps on walking, not daring to look back at her two companions. She is afraid she might break if she does. She is scared and she knows that they are scared too, but they're being strong and putting on a though exterior for her sake. She has to repay them somehow.
After a moment, they fall in step with her again. They don't fight over who gets her attention or who wins her affection. They can't. If one of them were to be together with her, that would leave the other all alone in this world of ruin and that's a horrifying fate which neither of them want to think about. They've come to an unspoken agreement that they can't be so cruel and leave one of them to die alone in an existence where they might be the last three people left. They no longer fight over her. They have learned to share.
As the fractal waterfall draws nearer, they grow more uneasy, but they choose to walk onwards and not show it. They can't. Not now, not when they might be approaching the end. The train tracks turn round it in a circle and they can't see what lies ahead. They pass by the falling bytes so close that they can almost hear the silent clink-swish they make. Almost. They are quite sure they're imagining things at this point because the pull of the dark mass is heavy and the tracks are very corroded on the side closest to the terrifying waterfall. For a moment, they think they won't make it.
Luckily for them, there is a piece of land on the other side of the waterfall. Just a small strip that's crumbling on all sides, but it stretches onwards and turns into a desolate road with cracked pavement. Through the cracks, they can see the road splintering away and falling down into blackness. They keep moving. There's only one direction and that's toward wherever the data still holds together. Eventually, their road comes to an end. It fans out in front of them in a myriad of crumbling bytes and scattering bits. Slightly off to one side is a porch of a house – just the porch, the rest of the house is already gone – and a swing seat.
For a moment, they just stand there watching the destruction ahead of them. They don't look back because there is nothing to look back on. They've come running from the same. This is the end of their road. Shizuka struggles with her tears, desperate to not let them fall. She can't and hides her face in her hands. Otogi and Honda are shaken. All of them had known that it might come to this, but they had hoped for a turn in the tide. For a door leading back to the outside world opening up and setting them free. For land breaking apart, but always providing a path to follow until it led them to the centre of this world and to a way out.
Otogi steels himself and puts an arm around Shizuka's shoulders, guiding her over to the swing. In a second, Honda follows them.
"Let's rest here," Otogi says quietly.
They sit on the swing seat with Shizuka in the middle and silently watch the destruction.
"I'm scared," she admits quietly when the ground at their feet turns into a chessboard of data, straight lines running through everything and revealing the net of byte construction.
Otogi squeezes her shoulder reassuringly, but doesn't speak. He is afraid his voice would betray him. At some point, Honda has put his arm around her shoulders and over his as well. They don't mind. They can't.
"Will it hurt?" she whispers, pulling her feet away from the scattering bits. She knows she's making it worse, but the nervous words sear her tongue and demand to be let out.
Honda hopes he isn't lying when he whispers back a hoarse, "No."
They huddle closer when fractal lines begin running all over the swing seat.
Shizuka's tears have almost dried up.
"I'm sorry," she whispers, but whom it's aimed at, she doesn't know. She just knows that those words have to be said, right then, right there.
"I am too," Otogi replies, though he, too, wouldn't be able to say what for.
He presses a light kiss on Shizuka's temples, exchanges a glance with Honda and the three of them draw even closer. Shizuka finds both of their free hands and grips them tightly.
"I wish…" she tries to say, but the words won't come. "I wish…"
"It's going to be okay," Honda mutters, but he's lying and they know it. Nothing is going to be okay. Nothing is going to be. But they're going into it together and that's what matters, he thinks. That's what really matters.
They're holding hands when the lines spring up all over them. Their bodies are starting to disintegrate around the edges and they hold on to each other for dear life. The hold is the last thing that breaks when they are swallowed up by the darkness.