Disclaimer: I do not own YGO.
Warnings: Mild dubious consent, but it's really very light, hence the rating.
A/N: So I woke up with this one-shot in my head this morning. No idea where it came from, but I'm starting to suspect that it's entirely possible that YGO characters have replaced my muse. I love how it turned out and if I get a good reception, there may be more one-shots written in this world. We'll see. I'd consider this to be pre-slash because I have slash goggles permanently welded to my face, but it could also be considered strong friendship or bromance if you're so inclined. Enjoy!


The golden puzzle sits on the corner of his nightstand, looking so innocuous and innocent that no one could ever imagine that it is actually home to a god-knows-how-old malicious spirit.

Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately as the case may be, Mutou Yuugi doesn't have to imagine.

He knows.

Though the enormous king-sized bed is incredibly comfortable and he is tired, Yuugi still can't sleep. Every time he closes his eyes he finds himself thinking about the duel with Kaiba Seto. Keeps remembering that flash of satisfaction, the desire to win, that thrummed through the spirit when the final blow was coming to pass: the confusion and dismay that bounced down their link when Yuugi surged forward and forbade him to risk Seto's life. He'd cut the link that he hadn't fully realized they'd had after that, and he hasn't spoken to the spirit since. As soon as he got to his room, he took the puzzle off.

It's curious. He's no longer sure what upsets him more: the spirit's actions or the missing link. But Yuugi doesn't - can't - think about that right now.

"Why?" he mutters. "Why would you do that? How could you be so callous towards someone else? Kaiba-kun was only…" Trailing off, Yuugi rolls over and pushes his face into his plump pillows. Only trying to save Mokuba, he completes silently, closing his eyes. Just like Yuugi is trying to save his grandfather. The spirit can't hear him make the comparison since he isn't wearing the puzzle, but it makes him feel a tiny bit better to think it anyway.

Curled up like this, with the covers tucked around his shoulders, he can feel exhaustion creeping up on him whether he wants it to or not. His mind is still whirling, trying to make sense of it all, but he hasn't slept well since coming to Duelist Kingdom and the bed is very comfortable; the fact that it's also located inside of a locked room where he feels moderately safer is just a bonus. Yuugi can feel his eyelids drooping and he sighs as he allows them to fully slide shut. He slips into a sleep so deep and true that he has no idea when, hours later, the door's handle turns and a shadow enters his room.

It's the feeling of something brushing lightly across his forehead that wakes him. He frowns sleepily and squirms, turning his head to the side in an effort to make it stop, but whatever it is continues. With a low grumble, he tries to lift one of his hands and realizes that he can't. At that same moment, he becomes aware of the heavy weight on his chest. Instantly, his eyes snap open.

Silvery hair is the first thing that he sees. It eclipses his vision, dragging slowly across his cheeks. Warm lips brush across his eyes, placing gentle kisses across a rounded cheekbone.

"P-Pegasus?" His voice comes out far shakier than he wants it to.

"You remind me so much of her," Pegasus murmurs, the words spoken so softly that if Yuugi weren't pinned beneath him, he wouldn't have been able to hear. "You have the same… gorgeous… innocent… childlike eyes." He giggles, breath washing against the pale skin beneath his lips.

Yuugi's heart is beginning to beat very fast as he fully understands the situation. Pegasus is perched on the side of the bed, leaning over him in such a way that Yuugi's arms have been trapped at his sides, and the man shows no signs of moving. "Pegasus, what are you doing?" he asks. "Please… get off of me." He is proud that this time his voice comes out as calmly as it does, and if his voice wobbles precariously at the end, well, that's not his fault.

"So pretty…" Pegasus tells him, curling a finger around a golden blonde bang. In the darkness, Yuugi can just make out that the man's one brown eye looks unfocused and dazed. "Such innocence… She was just like you, you know. The darkness took her away… But you're still here."

More kisses are placed on his chin, cheeks, eyes, forehead, nose. Yuugi whimpers low in his throat and tries to twist away, but those lips follow, kissing every swath of pale skin presented. He squirms, trying to struggle free, but when it comes down to it Pegasus is tall and heavy, pinning him to the bed with little effort. Tears begin to form at the corners of his eyes and he draws in a quivery breath, wondering if anyone will hear if he cries out. Has just decided to try when a hand slips over his mouth, muffling the sound before it can fully form.

"Shh. They might catch us!" he whispers. His other hand makes an appearance and begins stroking the tender flesh of Yuugi's throat before his lips follow, sliding down over neck, collarbone, and the small expanse of shoulder visible over his nightshirt. "We have to be very quiet, Cecelia."

The name means little to Yuugi. He whimpers again and turns his head in the other direction, straining uselessly to escape. A shaft of moonlight seeping in through the window bounces off of the puzzle and his eyes widen. A strangled sound catches in his throat before he goes very still and just… stops fighting. Pegasus seems to like that. The man giggles again and leans backwards, freeing Yuugi's right arm. Instantly, that arm shoots out and gropes desperately for the Millennium Puzzle.

There have been times, of course, that Yuugi has gone into the puzzle before. Mostly when he's in some sort of danger, perceived or not, or when there is a game in the works and the spirit wants to come out to play. It has always been automatic, a smooth switch that he is hardly conscious of, and in the end he falls into deep dark warmth and remains blissfully unconscious to the outside world. The battle with Seto was the first time he has remained conscious as to what the spirit is doing.

This is the first time he willingly throws himself into the puzzle, pressing his soul inside with all of the urgency of a child that has found somewhere safe to hide. He feels the spirit's bewilderment as he is thrust out into control and sobs once in reply before hiding. The confused spirit finds himself lying on a bed with Pegasus leaning over him, so close that his lips brush against skin with every movement, one hand over his mouth, shaking with quiet giggles as he talks to someone by the name of Cecelia about a game.

"Pegasus." It's a deadly growl filled with an unspoken threat, and really it shouldn't be possible to imbue a single word with that much rage, but somehow the spirit manages.

"Shh!" Pegasus hisses. "We're playing hide and seek. You don't want us to be caught, do you?"

"Get. Off." The words are not shouted, but they are spoken a great deal more loudly than before in a regal, commanding tone that promises pain and death. In response, Pegasus just giggles as the door swings open and a tall man with graying hair sweeps into the room. He takes one look at the scene playing out and strides over to the bed, gripping Pegasus by the back of his red suit jacket and hauling him to his feet.

"Come now, Pegasus-sama. You shouldn't be bothering your guests."

"But Croquet it was Cecelia," Pegasus whines, sounding like a child. His lips form a pout. "Well, it was until she went away. Why does she always go away?"

"I don't know," Croquet replies with gentle honesty. He looks at the spirit in the bed, at the flashing crimson eyes, the tight grip on the Millennium Puzzle, and says, "I'll make you a deal."

"A deal," the spirit repeats flatly. His hands are literally shaking with the desire to mind crush the both of them. Only the memory of his little one's fear the last time he had tried to act against someone keeps him from doing so. "What sort of deal?"

"In exchange for your silence, you'll be announced the winner of Duelist Kingdom. The soul of your grandfather - " Croquet gives him a measuring glance, as though trying to assess how genuinely upset he is " - and the souls of the Kaiba brothers will be returned and you will all be off of the island by noon."

The spirit stares at him for a long moment before giving a single nod. "Very well." Implicit in those two words are a promise that Croquet understands all to well. He wraps a strong arm around Pegasus's shoulders and hurriedly ushers the giggling man out of the room, closing the door behind them. The spirit waits for thirty seconds before he climbs out of the bed and re-locks the door. Then, as an extra ounce of caution, he pulls an armchair in front of the door and piles the nightstand, several heavy books, a lamp, and Yuugi's shoes on top. Only then does he return to the bed, place the puzzle around his neck, and retreat inwards.

Yuugi is in his soul room, huddled underneath the covers, face tucked into his hands. He has purposely not been watching the encounter between Pegasus and the spirit, so he's startled when he feels the edge of his bed sink slightly. Startled, but not afraid. "What did you do to him?"

"Nothing."

Curiosity is a cruel mistress. Yuugi reluctantly pulls the edge of the covers down and peeks over. "Nothing?"

"You will be declared the winner," says the spirit, folding his hands in his lap. "Your grandfather, Kaiba and Mokuba will be returned. It seemed like a compromise you would be pleased with." He speaks the words with a certain amount of hesitation that borders on distaste. The concept of compromisation is foreign to him; he still doesn't entirely understand why his little one stopped the duel with Seto but he suspects that the same principles will apply from now on. He doesn't like it, but in the interest of keeping Yuugi happy, he will do it.

"He… He didn't really do anything," Yuugi says after a long moment. "He… He kissed me… but that's it." His fingers clench around the covers tightly. "It's nothing… to get upset about."

The spirit just watches him for a long time.

"So I… I should be… okay, right?" He forces a smile that feels more like a grimace. His vision is going blurry again. "Because he didn't… He didn't…" The words trail off as the choked sob fighting to escape finally bursts free. In a fluid movement, he squirms out from underneath the covers and throws himself at the spirit. Warm arms close around his waist, lifting his body and settling him on strong thighs. "He didn't… He didn't… He didn't…" he repeats endlessly.

"He didn't," the spirit agrees, his deep voice a welcoming rumble beneath Yuugi's cheek.

"But I… I…" Words fail him again and Yuugi tucks his face into the curve where the spirit's neck meets his shoulder, curling in as close as possible. Briefly, the distant thought occurs to him that not a handful of hours ago he'd been frightened of the spirit, but he dismisses it instantly because he can't hold the tears back and he's so, so scared. Soft sobs alternating with whimpers tumble from his mouth and tears begin to slip down his cheeks.

Minutes pass, possibly melding into hours, Yuugi doesn't know. At some point, the spirit shifts slightly and begins moving his hand in a soothing circle against Yuugi's back. It's entirely comforting and, somewhat against his will, he feels his breathing beginning to slow from the jag of uncontrolled crying and gasping. He closes his eyes and turns his face slightly, still holding on with all of his strength. It's not like he thinks that the spirit is going to disappear, but it just feels good to be near someone who only wants to protect him.

Because he had felt it, like a brand that has been seared into his soul. The protective fury is radiating through the spirit even now, though it's tempered by affection so powerful that Yuugi feels like he's drowning in it. For the first time, he understands that the spirit only wants to keep him safe and happy at all costs. Even at the cost of others. And while he doesn't completely agree with it, it's enough for forgiveness - on both sides.

"You were trying to protect me," he mumbles, fatigue dragging him down.

"Yes."

"M'sorry. That I got angry. That I took the puzzle off." Tears threaten to rise again but the spirit sends a soothing wave down their link and it helps, helps so much that it should probably worry him, but it doesn't. He just sighs and basks.

"It's alright, aibou. I will always be there for you," says the spirit.

Yuugi lifts his head just enough to look into those deep crimson eyes. "Always? You won't ever leave me? You'll always be here to protect me?" he asks, knowing that he has no right to ask this, but out it comes.

To his credit, the spirit doesn't hesitate. "Always. You have my word."

Reassured, Yuugi buries his face again and doesn't try to fight back the sleep that drags him under. He's a little concerned about nightmares, because he can still feel the feather-soft press of Pegasus's lips against his skin and it makes him feel unclean. But he also feels safe, wrapped up in arms that would destroy the world and tear heaven and hell apart just to protect him.

As dawn nears, the spirit gently tucks his little one back into the bed and disappears in order to take control of the body again. Keeping their link wide open just in case Yuugi's emotions - currently content and sleepy - change, he packs Yuugi's backpack and leaves the room without bothering to tidy up. Jounouchi, Honda, Anzu and Ryou are waiting for him in the dining room. They are boisterous after a full night's sleep and looking forward to the duel that is going to happen today. Croquet's appearance changes that.

"What do you mean, there's not going to be a duel?" Jounouchi demands. He looks from Croquet to the spirit, ready to fight back on behalf of his friend. "Yuugi, are you okay with this?"

"Pegasus and I dueled last night," the spirit says calmly. It's a sort of truth, based on a foundation that he suspects Yuugi's friends will never know of. "I won."

"Oh." Jounouchi looks confused at first, but then grins. "Congrats, man."

"I knew you could do it!" Anzu says cheerfully.

"Wish we could've seen it," Honda adds.

Only Ryou remains silent, and when the spirit glances at him, he knows why. Dark, dark eyes look back at him and gold flashes for a split second beneath that white sweater. Silver glitters between small pale hands - a knife. 'Ryou' turns his head in the direction that Croquet has gone and a slow, wicked smile that speaks of pain, and death, and the sort of things a sixteen-year-old high school student wouldn't know of, but a thousands-year-old evil thief definitely would. It's a silent challenge, a warning, an 'I dare you to stop me'.

The spirit blinks at him and then turns away. He does not stop 'Ryou' when the boy slides away, walking after Croquet, and nor does he say anything when 'Ryou' returns just in time to join them as they leave the castle, millions of yen richer and with two extra companions in the form of a grouchy Kaiba Seto and his exuberant little brother, now smelling strongly of blood and pain. 'Ryou' smirks at him and waves two fingers, showing off the delicate little golden eye that fits snugly in the palm of his hand.

"So good to be going home, don't you think?" he says. "Now that we've all got what we came for?"

"Yes," the spirit says with a dark smirk of his own. "Yes, it is."


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