A/N: Season 10 Round 5 Sedateshipping: Malik Ishtar x Shizuka Kawai. Written to the tune of what is possibly the most ironic music choice – The Wanted's Gold Forever. The title has two meanings. "Fly away, butterfly!" as an order and "Fly-away butterfly" as in one which flits away.
Disclaimer: Kazuki Takahashi and all associated companies are the rightful owners of the Yuugiou! franchise and I claim no association with any of them. No copyright infringement intended with this and no money is being made from this. Please support the creator by purchasing the official releases.
Warnings: none I can think of. Just that it will question your perception of reality.
She dreams of cotton candy clouds and summer days with friends by the sea. She dreams of her brother, and mother, and school, and Anzu, and climbing stairs, and being lost in strange forests, and bright sunlight after darkness. She dreams of being naked in public while no one seems to notice it. She dreams of people, things and places she has never seen and never will see. She dreams of seeing.
But sometimes her dreams turn rotten, forcing her to run endlessly while something dreadful gives chase. It doesn't matter what others say, doesn't matter if Yuugi and Anzu, and her brother claim that there is no more danger; that the darkness has departed. Within her dreams, it thrives. In her dreams, it isn't safe.
In her dreams, her brother isn't her brother. In her dreams, someone else, someone horrible inhabits the bodies of her friends. In her dreams, people fall asleep, but never wake up.
In her dreams, pale lavender eyes watch her from above.
: : :
Malik and his family come to Domino for a brief visit – a five-year anniversary replay of the Battle City finals as managed by the Industrial Illusions and meant for charity. If the final duels of Battle City ended in a private top-eight-only tournament with only a live video broadcast, this time, in the spirit of the old times, it's a live public event in a large domed arena and the money for each sold ticket and event memorabilia goes towards orphanages and families in need. The latter is the only reason Seto Kaiba has allowed Pegasus to handle it and isn't going to press charges for copyright violation as he's just itching to do.
Malik doesn't feel all that comfortable with the cameras and spotlights trained on him. He mostly keeps company with Bakura who is equally withdrawn from Yuugi and his friends, but they don't have much to talk about. Eventually he gravitates back to Ishizu and Rishid, of which the latter is playing as himself this time. There are no doubles allowed, no drama – personal or otherwise. Their moves are already preordained, the outcomes expected. Why are they even bothering, Malik doesn't know.
It's Bakura versus Yuugi and Yuugi is losing. It turns out that Bakura is actually on par with the spirit that used to wear him as a suit, but if it's always been that way or if it's the result of the last five years which he's spent participating in countless tournaments, Malik doesn't know. Somehow, he'd never thought to ask.
This time, Rishid doesn't step forth, claiming to possess Bakura's mind.
Bakura laughs sheepishly and rubs the back of his head. "Oh, my. Is this where I'm supposed to forfeit?"
There are no God cards this time. No miracle victories to pull off last minute. This time there's a script they have to adhere to and in exactly one turn, he forfeits and casually shuffles his cards. The audience will never find out if Yuugi could have still won because Bakura is in lead by two thousand points. Both duellists climb down from their stands and cross the field to shake hands and give the audience several seconds' worth of time to snap their pictures.
: : :
Shizuka is dead to the duelling and the excitement all around her. There, right there sits the monster from her dreams, across from her in the very front with the other Battle City finalists. Right next to her brother. She sits alone in a crowd full of strangers. In a crowd full of danger. Honda and his nephew have seats somewhere on Bakura's end of the arena; Otogi is away in America, tied up with Rebecca in some business they've been keeping mum about for the last year, and Anzu is two rows above the duellists. There is no one around to see the state Shizuka is in.
She can't concentrate on the next duel unfolding below. She isn't even aware that her brother is facing off against Rishid, that she has promised to cheer for Jounouchi, but not a sound passes her lips. The world narrows down and she thinks she might faint. Her knuckles turn white from the force which she is gripping the armrests of her seat with. It's all she can manage to not scream.
After what seems like an eternity, a twenty-minute break is announced and the names of the next two pairs of duellists to face off right after the break boom from the speakers overhead while people filter out of the stadium to get refreshments, a smoke and a breath of fresh air – or all three simultaneously. Shizuka rises, going through the motions along with the crowd, but her mind is already elsewhere.
The monster. The monster is out. And she's not dreaming anymore.
: : :
Malik runs into Bakura by the pastry stand. They exchange a few phrases, Bakura recommends a few treats that are particularly delicious and they part ways again. Malik doesn't ask what cards he had in his hand or what was on the top of his deck, although he did notice that Bakura looked it up right before shuffling. He couldn't miss the small smile curling up the corner of his lips. Must have been something good.
Malik is up next against Mai Kujaku and he has no idea how he's going to weather that one. His skin crawls, thinking how they're being paraded around and forced to play by the script, and he doesn't doubt for a moment that the others feel the same way. Ishizu and Rishid have been stoic and he's done his best to appear the same way in front of the crowds. Kaiba has been looking sour, but then he's almost always like that. Jounouchi has griped about the unfairness of the arrangement and boasted about beating them all if he'd be allowed to play normally all in the same breath, and Mai has been scornful of the entire event. Yuugi has been complacent and encouraging, but the only person who's been all smiles and cheerful expressions aside from Pegasus himself is Bakura. Which is even more unsettling than Kaiba's constant scowling.
Sighing, Malik stuffs the remainder of the creampuff in his mouth – Bakura is right, they are delicious – and heads back to the arena. The only thing he's glad about is that they're skipping the Battle Royal this time, so there's one less duel to fake. He knows that the only duels carried out fully and earnestly will be the ones with Kaiba, who is the only one not playing by Pegasus' script, and those four vying for the eight to fifth place, as those never happened originally. Everything else is staged, but the audience doesn't seem to care much either way.
: : :
It's not Shizuka who seeks out Jounouchi during the break the way they'd agreed earlier. It's Jounouchi who tracks her down, wandering aimlessly amid the crowd of spectators. She starts when he catches up with her and makes a weak excuse for not meeting him and he lets it go. But she can't trust him anymore. She can't feel safe in his presence anymore because the monster is out and her brother will stop being her brother any minute now. Even now those lavender eyes could be looking at her through the eyes of her brother. It doesn't make much sense, but then, in dream world, it's common sense.
Jounouchi takes her back to their friends who chatter excitedly while trying to stop Honda's nephew from gorging himself on everything sweet within sight. Shizuka isn't sure she can trust them now. They've told her before, countless of times, that she is strong. Stronger than she thinks because she made it till the end of everything they, too, went through, but she doesn't share the same opinion anymore. She's caught in a web of terror where nightmares converge with reality all over again. The monster is out. The monster is free. The monster is watching them all intently. The monster will take a stand against Mai within minutes, but Shizuka knows that Mai has already lost the duel. She'll fall asleep again and won't wake up this time.
They say that, after Dartz, Pegasus came back to life changed because how else could anyone explain this mock tournament? Since when are duels being staged? No matter what kind of reasoning is attached to it, it's strange and unnatural. Pegasus has always been up for a game, but never faking it.
Shizuka doesn't think so. She thinks that Pegasus, like her, sees the reality. That he's attempting to show everyone what she already knows – that the monster is roaming free again. The monster is out and people will start turning dark side and dropping dead any minute now. Everyone else is just too blind to see. She's the one who was blind and then got her eyesight back, so if anyone should see the world distorted, it's her. Or maybe… maybe they're already inhabited by the horrible beings she has been dreaming about so often.
She looks at her friends and sees only lavender eyes staring back at her.
: : :
Mai scowls at Malik from across the field and declares what a complete waste of time this is. Malik doesn't counter with a snide question in regards to the reasons she's participating, although he wants to. He knows what her response will be and he can't shoot it down with any kind of repartee. Because he's here for the same exact reason. They all are. But she's more used to spotlights and cameras and all the extra attention, whereas he far preferred the original Battle City finals setting. They all did, he corrects himself, watching Mai draw her card and lay out her monsters, poised to attack. He fights back a sigh, suddenly craving another creampuff, and announces his turn. He'll have to wing it if he wants to come close to a point where she can forfeit and look like she's been moments from losing. Because while he's not all caught up on socialising, he knows a thing or two about losing with one's dignity intact.
: : :
Shizuka finds it impossible to stay in her seat. Each move Mai makes down below in the arena, each monster Malik summons, brings her closer to the brink. How many monsters are already hiding amid the audience, she wonders. How many of them are wearing human disguises? She can feel their breath on her neck, slow and hungry – just like in her dreams. She stumbles from her seat in the middle of the duel and flees the stadium.
The streets are empty, but she feels the stares of invisible danger from every angle. It's after her again. Just like in her dreams, her feet refuse to do what she wants them to do, making her trip and stumble along the streets that used to be so familiar, but have now turned into mock copies of themselves. There are dark shapes everywhere, strange creatures leering at her from windowsills that aren't windowsills, but actually black craters blown into the side of a cliff that has dark blood dripping down it. Until it changes to a wide field peppered with odd constructions no human could ever hope to replicate. Perching on loopy branches protruding from steel lampposts are bright birds with terrible crooked beaks. They chirp and whirr, giving off the occasional clack and stare her down with lavender eyes.
There's a scream building in Shizuka's chest, but it catches in her throat and suffocates her because there's a huge green wave coming on and she has nothing to hold on to. It's barrelling down the street right at her. It picks her right off her feet, tosses her up high and in an instant it takes to draw in a terrified breath, she's gone. Swallowed by dark jaws and shiny rolling eyeballs.
: : :
There's a small clock embedded in the curved border of the stand, cleverly hidden from the eyes of everyone but the duellists. Malik keeps checking the numbers slowly ticking away, pretending to stare at the cards in his hand as if considering his next move. They're almost out of time.
He's done his best against Mai. His best means that he's managed to keep their life points roughly even, though he'd come close to taking critical hits a few times. She's been holding back though; that much he can tell from the way she plays her cards.
Mai looks displeased, which only helps to convince the audience that she's really concerned about losing. They haven't even exchanged any witty comments for the last five turns. She draws a card, makes a face at it and places it back on top of her desk, announcing her surrender.
Malik estimates that it was a really good card too. A game-turner, no doubt. He doesn't have to ask it. He reads it all in her expression when he walks toward her to shake hands and stand still for the crowd and the press to snap pictures. Being the owner of the Rod and travelling through countless minds has made him into somewhat of a people reader. He can look past the surface. He knows enough about normal human interaction to tilt his head slightly, acknowledging her superiority this time. He doesn't know if she catches it, though. He never asks her, even after they're off camera.
: : :
Shizuka's nightmare swells in proportions. Grows out and takes nasty turns while she struggles to find purchase. While she fights her way back to reality. Her friends have been telling that she's strong, but she hasn't ever felt weaker. Lavender eyes are watching. Monsters wear her friends like cheap suits and everyone is a looming shadow that threatens to chase her until she cannot run anymore and has to surrender to the darkness. She knows that, if she gives in, the shadows will well up and swallow her the way they did Mai, her brother, Bakura, even.
One day, she dreams of waking up. She dreams of waking up one day.
For the time being, though, the nightmares hold her fast in their grasp. And lavender eyes are watching.