Disclaimer: I should think it obvious, but just in case, I don't own YGO.
Warnings: Implication of suicide… kind of.
A/N: Since there are so many return stories from Yuugi's point of view, I thought it was time to find out how Yami was feeling on the subject. I started this story and then stopped, and then found the perfect song inspiration to get me going again. I'm on a serious kick to make sure these two end up together no matter what, apparently. Enjoy!
And maybe, I'll find out
A way to make it back someday
To watch you, to guide you
Through the darkest of your days
If a great wave should fall
It would fall upon us all
Well I hope there's someone out there
Who can bring me back to you
The Calling - Wherever You Will Go
Soft golden sand slips between his toes, leaving a residual feeling of warmth long after he lifts his feet free. The sweet, heavy smell of flowers, lovingly tended by the palace servants and his mother, surrounds him. It is almost cloying in their overabundance, the dazzling array of crimson, ochre, and violet a taunting stain on his eyes. He places a hand over his face and sighs, the exhalation escaping before he can gather himself together enough to stop it. The sun beats down on his head and his fingers trail up, curling around the edge of his crown and pulling it free. He stares down at the golden headpiece silently.
"That does not look like a happy face, cousin. Only you could look at something so valuable with such a disturbed expression."
A wry smile flashes over his face. "Perhaps that is because I am the only one who doesn't want it," he mutters, the comment almost too quiet to be heard. Almost. Sharp blue eyes narrow slightly and the High Priest Seth ventures a bit closer, like a kitten that is too curious to be warned away.
"What troubles you?" he asks, voice slightly more gentle now. "You have time to rest. Is this not what you wanted?"
"I thought it was." It is quite possibly the most honest observation he's made since he arrived, and he pauses, surprised by how true it is. What was it his aibou used to say? Hindsight is 20/20? The memory makes his smile grow a little more before it falls apart and he lowers his head against the hot sting of tears to stare at the crown again. Equally hot gold is burning his fingertips but he doesn't let go.
"Atemu - "
"Don't call me that!" The sharp exclamation bursts out of him and he jumps to his feet, too unsettled to sit still any longer. He drops the crown on the ground and paces back and forth with his hands linked behind him, breathing too quickly. "I'm not Atemu, Seth. I don't know who I am, but I'm not him."
Seth is silent for a very long minute. "I am not sure I understand."
"It's just…" He swings around, spreading his arms helplessly. "I'm not Mou hitori no Yuugi. Not anymore." And oh, it hurts to say that out loud. "I had a name, yes, and I wanted to use it. I did use it. But that's not right either. Atemu died five thousand years ago and I was left over."
"You are Atemu," Seth says steadily, as though the words will become true if he says it with enough force.
The Pharaoh of Egypt stares back at him sadly. "No, I'm not."
A few days later, they're gathered in the throne room after a long day (all the days are too long lately, he thinks) when the frantic guards come running, words tumbling from their lips about the dangerous thief with white hair who has entered the palace and refuses to leave. Moments later, said thief saunters into the room like he owns the place, dark, ruby-flecked eyes categorizing every inch of every thing. He puts his hands on his hips, crimson coat flaring at the sides, and gives them all a considering look. Those dark eyes are assessing and know it all in the briefest of glimpses.
"Akefia," Seth says in greeting, body tensing, hands reaching instinctively for a weapon that no longer hangs at his side. His empty hands clench into fists instead. It annoys him that someone like the thief made it into the afterlife, regardless of the fact that said thief is no longer possessed by Zorc.
A slight narrowing of those eyes, almost indiscernible, noticeable only to someone who knows him well. "Wrong again, Seth, but then that's to be expected," he says with a hint of amusement. He turns his whole body instead of just his head and speaks in a low purr. "Hello, Yami."
It's like someone reached out and touched him with a jolt of fire. He breathes more easily and stands up, but not because he feels threatened. "Hello, Bakura."
This time it's an approving nod, accompanied by the kind of smile that crocodiles must give to their prey right before they go in for the strike. "I knew you'd catch on sooner or later. Not even the Great Pharaoh can be clueless forever," he says, running a casual hand through his tangled grey-white hair.
"Why are you here?" he says, unable to hold back the smirk that wants to take over his face as Seth glares at both of them. After all, it's unbecoming of a Pharaoh to smirk in this kind of situation, especially when his reaction makes it seem like he and the thief are comrades, but then maybe that's why it feels so good. "I thought that your version of the perfect afterlife would mean never seeing me."
"We can't always get what we want."
It's meant to be a light comment. He hears what's unsaid. "What do you want?"
The thief looks at him squarely. "You know what I want. And when you're ready to admit it, you know where to find me." He turns and walks away.
When the guards move to stop him, a single raised hand halts them in their tracks.
It's another hot, humid and sticky day, broken only by a brief shower that turns the golden sand into mud that sticks to the feet and grabs at the ankles of unsuspecting children. He sits on his balcony and stares out at the rain, though he is no longer as fascinated as he used to be by the rare occurrence. Even in the afterlife, it seems that rain is sparse, but he remembers days of watching the skies open and pour water endlessly, days when the only light was that of thin crackles of gold as they leapt from cloud to cloud, always accompanied by that ominous crack that had been loud enough to foretell the end of the world. Days where his aibou would giggle sweetly and reassuringly say that thunderstorms haven't ended any worlds yet and why don't they go make some popcorn?
He hears the footsteps long before the man appears, but he can't help tensing as Siamun finally steps around the corner. The elderly advisor was one of the people who helped to raise him after the death of his father, and even though his parents have joined them in the afterlife, no one can erase a lifetime of caring. That's why he doesn't make the man leave, why he remains silent as Siamun shuffles over and sits on the balcony beside him, watching him watch the rain. There's silence that Siamun doesn't break and it's heavy, and finally, he can't take it anymore so he does.
"Why? Why would you choose to come to this time?" he asks. He's wanted to ask for a long time now, but propriety kept him from doing so. "Why would you want to spend eternity as an old man? Surely you could have petitioned the gods to let you be elsewhere."
"I could have," Siamun says. "But this was the time of my greatest accomplishment. I was able to live long enough to see you become the great Pharaoh that we always knew you would be." His smile is warm. "We were waiting for you for a very long time and sometimes waiting is easier borne by those who have companionship. Besides, this old body isn't so bad."
"I see." He hunches his shoulders, unable to look directly at Siamun. The man reminds him of someone else, a grandfather who loved his grandchild more than anything, and that hurts. "Sometimes I think that great pharaoh is long gone, and there is only me left behind." His voice actually wobbles a little. Anyone else might have given him sympathy. Siamun just rolls his eyes and gives him a rough tap on the shoulder.
"Stop moping, Atemu," he says with more kindness than before. "It is unbecoming of anyone, but especially of a man."
The fact that he did not say 'of a Pharaoh' catches his interest. He sits up and says, "What if I want to mope? You couldn't make me stop."
Siamun looks at him closely. "Either you are Atemu, in which case you can order me around, or you are not and you can't. Which is it?"
He stares, mouth open slightly.
The old man chuckles. "Ah, my child. Let me now pose your question to you. Why did you not petition the gods to be elsewhere? Out of everyone, they would have listened to you, their golden child." He stands up, moving as though the rain pains him, and starts to walk away. "Think about it."
Mana is the one who finally breaks down. She's always been a little impatient (okay, a lot) and she can't take it anymore. "You're being stupid!" she yells at him, slamming her staff down on top of a pile of reeds. Most of them snap in half but she doesn't care. Things are more easily accessible in the afterlife and besides, she's really mad. "Why don't you just go back already?"
"What?" he says, confused. He's been staring off into space instead of listening to her, but now he snaps to attention and really looks at her, noticing the tears in her eyes for the first time. Hot guilt makes him squirm. "What are you talking about?"
"Ra, you are a total stranger to me," she says, disgusted. "Has the time in the Puzzle made you stupid, or is the fact that you're only one half?"
Hearing it spoken so bluntly actually, physically, hurts. It's been so long since he felt pain that it's a hundred times sharper than it should be and he doubles over, hands cupping his stomach as he gasps for breath. She cries out in alarm and leaps off of the table, rushing to his side, apologies falling from her lips as she wraps a supportive arm around his shoulders. He allows her to help him over to the table and leans against it heavily while she fetches him a glass of pomegranate juice and holds it until he has drunk it all. Only once his rasping has stopped does she set the cup down and grab his shoulders.
"Listen to me," she says sternly. "Atemu was my best friend for a long time. He understood me. I've been waiting for him to come because I thought he would be happy. But I don't want any part of him to suffer. So if you're not happy here, if you would rather be somewhere else, we would all prefer it if you would just go. Please." Her face starts to crumple and she can't stop a tear from sliding down her cheek. "We've all been waiting for you, but you being here with us is pointless if you have someone else you need to be with."
All of his words dry up in his throat. He hasn't been speechless many times before, but it's never a pleasant experience. "Mana, I… I don't want to leave," he fumbles out finally. It's not really what he meant to say, but somehow she seems to understand.
"I know." Her voice is very gentle and makes him feel like a child, especially when she steps closer and puts her head on his shoulder. "I know you don't. You feel like you should stay here with us because we were waiting for Atemu. But what we forgot is that while our lives stopped, yours didn't." She looks up and manages a smile even though tears are flowing freely down her cheeks. "Maybe yours isn't finished yet."
He leaves without telling anyone that night. He knows where the thief is - everyone does, in the afterlife there is no point in hiding - and it takes no time at all for his horse to travel the shifting desert sands to get there. The thief is expecting him, it seems, as he walks into the caves without being challenged. "Bakura," he says when he finds the thief sitting on a pile of fur.
"Yami," the thief greets, voice cool.
"You want your other half back," he says. He doesn't know if there's really such a thing as total darkness and light when it comes to people. All he knows is that without his little one, his aibou, he feels an emptiness inside that nothing else can fill. It keeps him awake at night and makes him not want to be Atemu even if he could, not if it means that he'll never see his aibou again. Selfish as it is, he can't wait the hundred or so years it will take for death to make things right.
"So do you." It's accompanied by a casual shrug that belies the urgency hidden in those words.
"Yes, but I'm surprised you do." He sighs and looks around, already knowing that he will likely never get an explanation. "How are we going to do this?"
The thief actually seems startled. "You're going to bring me with you?"
A wry smile splits his face. "Would it be worth it trying to get away?" he says. "Wouldn't you just try to sneak in behind my back?"
"It seems that you can be taught after all," the thief says with a smirk. "Are you sure about this? Because once we do this there will be no turning back. If you're not, you might as well fuck off." He goes silent and just stares, waiting for an answer.
The modern curse makes him smile. "Yes," he says instantly. "I am." Even as he speaks, he knows the thief will be taking him at his word. He has willingly put himself on this path and is ready to accept the consequences of what will come. It causes a split second of doubt, but he determinedly pushes those feelings down. Realizing that his acceptance likely sounded less than promising, he stiffens his shoulders and looks the thief square in the eye, summoning up the years of courage and pride to add, "Let's do this."
Without speaking, the thief reaches into the pile of furs he was perched on and pulls out a knife. It's long and unadorned, with no carvings, jewels, or seams. Just a long blade fashioned of what appears to be pure gold. Valuable, no doubt. He doesn't want to think about where the thief may have gotten it from.
"We'll have to get their attention," the thief says.
"Whose?" he asks, though he suspects he already knows.
The thief smirks. "The gods."
It doesn't hurt. Even after all this time in the afterlife (and he honestly doesn't know how long it's been; time has become meaningless), that's still the thing that gets to him. He lies on the ground with the knife in his right hand and watches as an odorless, clear liquid pools into the sand around him. It's not blood because he's already dead - they both are - and it doesn't bother him to watch it disappearing into the golden dust. He feels heavy and dizzy, and the thief's hand, which he is holding onto with his left - probably the worst part of this whole ordeal - is growing clammy.
He closes his eyes when he can't keep them open any longer and thinks about his little one. It is so easy to conjure up a picture of those beautiful violet eyes, the pale skin, the wild hair, the tentative but cheerful smile. His heart aches. Does his aibou miss him? Has he moved on? Would he want this? The doubts press in on him and breathing gets a little harder, but underneath it all he still wants it. Wants it more than anything. Even if this is a mistake, he knows he won't regret it.
The darkness swirls and dissolves into chaotic light. They're falling, him and thief, down into an endless abyss. Instinctively he holds on tighter, though he keeps his eyes shut. He wishes he could do the same to his ears as voices start speaking around them, a cacophony of sound that feels like a razor blade is being dragged slowly across his brain. It burns and freezes all at once.
"Why what?" he returns, realizing that the voice is speaking to him. It's genderless, so high-pitched he can barely stand it, and he has no idea who it is.
"You made your choice, Pharaoh. And Tomb Robber, you were fortunate to have an afterlife. Yet now you are throwing it back at us?"
"It is not what we thought it would be," he says honestly. "We do not mean any disrespect but we are only one half. Please, return us to the living world and our partners. That is where we belong."
"Mere mortals do not get to change their minds. Even gods can't just return you to life."
"Can't or won't?" the thief demands. "So much for the gods being all powerful."
He squeezes the thief's hand tightly in warning as the voices around them rumble in annoyance. "Please. I was wrong." The words feel tight in his throat. "I should have stayed. I was doing what was right instead of following my heart. I… I can't bear to be empty anymore. Please."
There's no response but the light grows even brighter, burning into his eyes. He gasps in agony as his whole body burns, throbs, hurts in ways that he didn't know existed. Just before he passes out, he hears a tiny voice, full of satisfaction, say, "Called it."
No, he doesn't want to.
"Damn it, you idiot, wake up!" This time the voice is accompanied by a blast of frigid water. He chokes, sputters, and jerks upright. The thief is standing over him, arms crossed. He's the same - tanned skin, flared crimson coat, scar on his cheek, wild hair, annoyed gaze - but beyond him is…
"It worked?" he says, voice full of wonder. He starts to sit up and - oh! Ra does that hurt. From head to toe, his whole body tingles with a pain that verges on agony. His knees buckle and he nearly goes right back down, but he manages to grab the thief's shoulder in time. Amazingly, the thief lets him hold on until he has regained his balance before jerking away.
"We're back," he confirms, putting a couple of feet between them. "I found a newspaper and checked."
"What's the date?"
The thief tells him.
He's amazed. It's only been a couple of years. It feels like a lifetime has passed. "I can't believe that it worked."
"Here, this was between us when I woke up."
It's a small golden disc, oblong in shape, with writing on the front. His eyes skim it quickly, absorbing the information, but it's nothing that he isn't expecting. In fact, it's surprisingly… lenient. Siamun was right after all. The disc crumbles to dust the second he finishes reading it and he brushes his hands off on his kilt. "Do you think you can find your way around Domino City without getting lost?" he asks, smirking.
"Just make sure you don't get mobbed," the thief retorts. And just like that, he's gone, sliding so efficiently out of the park and into the crowds walking the streets that it's like he was never there. Hopefully Ryou is home and won't have a heart attack when he opens his door.
The thought makes him smirk and he follows the thief, pushing aside bushes that feel smooth as velvet on his calloused fingers. They don't have greenery like this in Egypt and it makes him ache. To feel a heart beating in his chest, to know that if cuts himself now he will bleed, to take a deep breath and feel his lungs expand… It's almost overwhelming. His body, though, is dreadfully weak, and even though he wants to run, a couple of times he is forced to stop and stand with his eyes closed, just listening to the bustling sounds of a modern city as he rests; it's soothing in a way that he wasn't expecting.
"I'm home," he whispers out loud. The words taste good on his lips. Here is a place where he does not have to be Atemu, where he can just be… whatever he is. Whoever he is. Maybe he'll even have the chance to figure that out.
By the time he makes it to the game shop, dusk is falling and he's exhausted. He hasn't been mobbed but there are a lot of people giving him odd looks, and he's glad to get out of view. The store is bustling and he's able to slip inside without anyone noticing, hiding amongst the crowds of children. There are so many new sights, games and puzzles that are unfamiliar to him, but he stops caring about any of them when something in his chest gives a peculiar lurch. His head swings around instantly, finding the source of the tug blindly.
The years, such as they were, have been good to Mutou Yuugi. Though he's no taller than he was before (doubtlessly a source of contention for the boy), he's lost the pudginess in his cheeks and his shoulders are a little broader. His eyes are still violet, still warm and kind, that much is evident even from across the room. He doles smiles out like candy, greeting each new customer that steps in front of him like they are the only person in the world. His customers enjoy it, the young girls giggling shyly as they make their purchases, and through it all Yuugi just smiles that much more widely.
The urge to prostrate himself in front of his partner and drink in that attention sweeps over him, but he turns away. Dazed, he forces his legs to carry him through the door to the other part of the house. Unlike Yuugi, the house hasn't changed a bit, and he easily finds his way up to the bedroom. It's the first time he's been in the room with the ability to touch things with his own body. For several minutes, he loses himself in running his fingers over everything, both new and old, familiar and unfamiliar. Everything, even the things he has seen before, is exotic and sends a thrum of excitement through his veins.
He eventually ends up on his back, staring up at the skylight that is above Yuugi's bed. Scattered beams of light spill through the glass like a last lingering kiss. The pillows are soft and the mattress conforms to his body. Yuugi's scent is all around, fresh and clear, like a warm spring breeze. Distantly, he wonders how the thief made out and whether Ryou was happy to see him. Theirs is a complicated relationship, but then again, it's probably no less so than the one between him and his partner. A yawn overtakes him and his eyes drift shut.
For the first time in centuries, he goes to sleep perfectly happy.
"I don't know, Ryou, let me - " Pause. "… I'll call you back."
A muffled thud.
Trembling hands brush against his cheeks, sliding across his face and down his throat, his chest, stomach, hips, legs. Tracing every part of his body, mapping him, and by the time they reach his toes and start examining the few toe rings Mana forced him to wear, he's awake again. He blinks heavily and turns his head, finding violet eyes that are swimming with tears close to his. Something catches in his throat and for a moment, he can't speak, even though there are a million words he wants to say. So he lets his fingers do the talking. He cups Yuugi's cheeks, dries his eyes, strokes his hair. Yuugi's breath hitches and he leans forward.
"You came back," he whispers, lips barely moving. "How long have you been up here for?"
"I'm not sure," he answers, tilting his partner's chin up. "You were busy in the store. I didn't want to disturb you."
Yuugi laughs and it's amazing how quickly that turns into tears. The strength goes out of his arms and he falls forward so that they're laying together, one on top of the other, so close that nothing, not even air, can get between them. A flood of satisfaction leaves him feeling weak as he wraps his arms around his partner, holding onto Yuugi for dear life. Because that's what he's got now. Life. He had nothing in Egypt, no reason to want to be in the afterlife, because this… this is his reason.
"I missed you," he murmurs.
"I missed you, too," Yuugi says, pulling back just enough to wipe at his eyes. "Oh god… I thought I wouldn't see you again until I died."
The thought of Yuugi dying is too terrible to contemplate, even if they will go together (the gods have promised). "I couldn't wait that long. I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize." Yuugi shakes his head.
"Were you happy without me?"
"I was content," says Yuugi, lacing their fingers together. He can't seem to get enough of touching but neither of them mind. "But I wasn't happy. I could have lived my life that way but a part of me will always belong to you. You know that." His tone is mildly chastising and he can't stop a grin in response.
"Yes, you're right, aibou, I did know that," he says, leaning up just right. This is something he has wanted to do for a long time and for once he doesn't stop himself. Their lips meeting in a soft, gentle brushing that lasts both mere seconds and forever. By the time he pulls back, he's pretty sure he already knows the answer, but he asks anyway. "Was that okay?"
Yuugi blinks, looking a little stunned. One hand traces his mouth in wonder. "Yes."
He nods. "Good."
It takes a moment for Yuugi to catch up and then he just shakes his head and grins. "Did you return just to do that?"
"God." He chuckles a little, violet eyes more cheerful than they have been in months. This warmth, this attention, is genuine and all centered on him. "What do I call you?"
A question for the ages. He thinks for a moment, then brings their joined hands up and kisses them. "Call me whatever you want," he replies. "As long as I can be with you, whether you call me Atemu or Mou hitori no boku, I don't care." He pauses and then adds, "Bakura called me Yami."
"Yami, then," Yuugi murmurs. "I love you, Yami."
And spoken like that? It's so worth it.
"I love you too, Yuugi."