Summary: Yuugi never learned how to say good-bye. And as it turned out, he had just enough time to jump between the doors before they closed.
Disclaimer: Would that YGO did belong to me; we'd have seen a completely different ending, let me tell you. The italicized words are a close interpretation of what Atemu/Yami says at the end of his duel with Yuugi.
A/N: I intended to write a different story tonight but... this came out. It's short and not as slashy as I thought it would be, but there's something about it that I like. I owed a story to MysticalElfGirl for being the 400th reviewer on my YGO story Give Myself Away. YY/Y was the pairing requested, so here you go. I hope you enjoy it because I had to re-watch the end of the final episode for this and... wow. My heart, it breaks.
Do we have to end this now
Can we make it last somehow
We both know what we've gotta say, not today
Cause I don't wanna leave this way
Don't say goodbye
Cause I don't wanna hear those words tonight
Cause maybe it's not the end for you and I
And although we knew
This time would come for me and you
Don't say anything tonight
If you're gonna say goodbye
Skillet – Say Goodbye
"I lost, Aibou."
The first person to leave Mutou Yuugi's life had been his father. He could vividly remember the day that he had toddled downstairs, just barely five years old, and spotted the man quietly unlocking the front door. It was very early in the morning, long before his mother would normally be up, and Yuugi had wanted to watch some cartoons before she said he couldn't. But when he saw his father, he stopped and watched. There had been a large suitcase beside the man, and his quick, furtive movements spoke of a strong desire to not be caught. He'd sworn softly under his breath, a streak of words that Yuugi would later be scolded for repeating, and finally shook the doorknob just so. With the door open, his hand lifted the suitcase off of the floor with a sharp jerk and he stepped forward.
Surprisingly, just before he shut the door behind him, he paused and looked back, perhaps because he sensed small eyes on him, but more likely because he wanted to be sure nothing important had been left behind.
His eyes landed squarely on his small son.
And then he left.
"Stand up. A victor shouldn't be down on his knees."
The second time anyone left him was when he was about nine years old. Two years before, not long after his father left and never came back, his mother had given up on the idea of being able to make it on their own and agreed to move in with his grandparents. Shortly after the big move, his grandmother had grown sick, and his mother stopped working in order to care for the ailing woman full time. In spite of the expensive medicine that drained much of the Kame Game Shop's resources, his grandmother grew steadily more ill until she had to be moved to the hospital.
Every day, Yuugi would ask if he could go and visit.
Every day, his mother would reply, "maybe tomorrow."
Until one day, he came home and his mother was crying into the books, while his grandfather sat at the store's counter and stared out the windows with empty, sad eyes.
After that, he didn't ask anymore.
"If I were you, I wouldn't cry."
His knees were aching from the cold stone floor. It burned through the thin fabric of his pants and ate into the delicate flesh until his whole body was shivering helplessly. Tears spilled freely down his cheeks and choked gasps fell from his lips. His precious cards lay scattered across the floor, but for once, he didn't care.
Goodbye. As far as Yuugi was concerned, it was a word that should have been stricken from all languages. It was the cruellest word there was, especially when the one saying it was your other half in every sense of the word, in all ways that could exist.
Cold. He was so cold.
But – then there was warmth in the form of two hands that landed on his shoulders.
"I am no longer Mou Hitori no Boku. You are no one but yourself. There is only one Mutou Yuugi in the world."
Those hands tightened, pulling him to his feet. Yuugi went, if only because he didn't have the strength to fight. He opened eyes he hadn't realized he'd closed and looked over and up, into the warm crimson gaze of Atemu. His partner seemed to be waiting patiently for Yuugi to say something, anything, but the words had dried up in his throat. He couldn't speak, could hardly breathe. All he could do was stand there and shake and hope that Atemu would know what it meant.
But for quite possibly the first time ever, Atemu didn't get it. "Do you understand me, Aibou?" he asked instead, reaching up and rubbing his thumb across the tear tracks. "You don't need me to guide you anymore."
Yuugi nodded dumbly, because that was true. He didn't need Atemu's guidance, but he still had need for Atemu. If he could have moved his arms, he would have clung to his darker half and begged him to stay, to put off his return to the afterlife. But he was still frozen and Atemu seemed to take his continued silence as agreement, because after one last squeeze, he smiled and turned away, facing the great doors with an expression of determination. Jounouchi and Anzu came forward at the same time, but Yuugi was deaf to their passionate words as he slowly twisted to watch.
Some distant part of him wondered if this was what it would be like from now on, empty and so, so cold.
The great doors began to open and Atemu took a step. His hand rose in a confident 'thumbs up', a gesture that made Jounouchi chuckle softly in understanding as the pharaoh's clothing began to change from modern to royal. Anzu made an unconscious movement, like she wanted to run up and stop his progress into the light, but Jounouchi grabbed her shoulder and stopped her with a firm shake of his head. It was fortunate that he was otherwise occupied, because it meant that he didn't have the time to stop Yuugi when the hikari suddenly regained the use of his legs and celebrated by launching himself forward.
Familiar voices screamed his name but his attention was focused on the disappearing form of his darkness. The doors were closing and he had just enough time to slip through before they fully shut, leaving him encased in shadows. There was no sign of the sweet light that had greeted Atemu and for a split second, despair and doubt crept over him. Yuugi looked around and wondered blankly what he had done, but he had no time to contemplate it; the world turned a shade of white that made his head instantly begin to throb. Instinctively, he pressed his hands to his eyes and left them there until the strange feel of the sun beating down on his head gave him the strength to look up and around.
Sand. Sun. That was all he could see at first past the blinding black spots dancing in front of him. Yuugi shivered and wrapped his arms around his body, waiting for the spots to fade. Even though the sun was warm, he still felt cold inside. As his vision returned, he took a step forward, realizing he had landed in some sort of town... and beyond that was the palace. His heart twisted violently as he gazed at the small group of people gathered in front of him. It was Atemu, dressed in his full royal garb, greetings his old friends with a jovial air that gave no indication that he had given anything more than a passing thought to what he had just left behind.
Doubt seized him again and he wavered, wondering if he had made the wrong decision. There was no way to go back – and oh Ra, what would his friends and family think? – and perhaps he'd been wrong, what if Atemu would rather be left to his afterlife in peace? Maybe he should walk away and pray that someday he'd find a way back to the real world. But he didn't want to. He was still so cold and Atemu was so close, though he hadn't noticed his young hikari yet. Yuugi shifted with indecision and finally remained standing right where he was.
Gradually, they noticed him.
No one brought his presence to the attention of their pharaoh at first. Eyes widened and glances were exchanged, smiles mixed with frowns, and elbows nudged ribs until finally everyone was looking at him except for Atemu. Yuugi felt lightheaded, but he remained where he was, torn between running away and running forward. The endless tug of war kept him frozen in place until finally Atemu noticed that something behind him was extremely interesting and turned around.
Shock. Dismay. Anger. Sadness. Pain. Joy. Happiness. Regret. Hope. Understanding.
All of those emotions flashed across Atemu's face in the blink of an eye, and only Yuugi, who knew him so well, could have read them. He straightened as Atemu started walking towards him, his heart pound so fast and hard he felt dizzy, and tried to force his body to remain perfectly still, but it was hard. The dreadful, biting cold was still present, seeping ever deeper into his bones like it would never leave, like he'd never again know warmth.
The idea scared him more than anything else in the world.
Atemu stopped about a foot away. "Aibou, what are you doing here?"
A dozen things ran through Yuugi's mind. There were so many ways that he could answer that question, so many things that he wanted to tell the man. Instead, what came out was, "Mou Hitori no Boku, I'm cold."
Atemu looked astonished. His mouth opened and closed a few times without anything coming out. He stared at his light for a few seconds before he shook his head helplessly and reached out, placing his hands on Yuugi's shoulders again. But this time, he pulled his other half close, pressing the younger boy securely against his body. Yuugi cuddled in as close as he could get, sharing his first hug ever with the man that had been sharing his mind for nearly two years, sliding his hands around Atemu's back and holding on tightly. As his head came to rest in the curve of Atemu's collarbone, he stopped shivering as warmth began to soak into his skin and bones, reaching all the way down into his nearly broken heart.
He was home.