AN: Oh my god, okay, first off let's just say it took me weeks to write this little Easter egg! Those of you who've been watching me for a while or who have read any of my old stuff might recognise this. It's a complete rewrite (a 50 page rewrite at that) of an old one shot called Greed. If you haven't read it you might not want to spoil things for yourself (besides this is much less cringe worthy quality hopefully).
Warnings: it's a bit psychological, bit dark, smidge violent, nasty and dubious. On the plus side there's a 21 page lemon (yikes!) which is possibly my personal favourite in my current body of work.
Yugi missed the weight of the puzzle tugging down like a noose round his neck. He even missed it bumping into him when he slept too tired from some glorious final battle or some other, more mundane, test to remember to slip it off before he hit the mattress. You'd think something that big would be hard to miss, hard to forget, but it must've been shadow magic that kept the puzzle surprisingly light and docile round him. Like his watch most of the time Yugi forgot it was even there when he was busy but felt acutely lost without it when it was gone.
It bruised him a little at first, lugging it around when he was sixteen and clueless that the primordially jumbled soul of an ancient powerhouse Pharaoh was lurking within it and possessing him at convenient intervals. He hadn't paid it much undue attention at the time but after the aptly named Spirit of the Puzzle had disposed of Ushio and taken control of Yugi's body for the first time those bruises vanished. Carrying the puzzle, wearing the puzzle, had never damaged him since. No bruises, no aches, even after sleeping half on it all night. Though, actually, that was half a white lie. The puzzle had hurt him once since the first Penalty Game when, escaping a burning building, Yugi had scarred his hands on almost molten gold attempting to rescue the Pharaoh. If it hadn't been for Jonouchi and Honda…
Yugi let that thought slip, drift, away because nothing had happened. There were thousands of times he might've lost his life between sixteen and eighteen but nothing worth dredging up now.
He rolled onto his back, stretching his arms above his head over the pillow and letting them slump as he curled his toes out. Muscles realigned he felt a little less cramped and continued the tangent. He did miss the Puzzle's weight. Missed the promise of never having a nightmare, yeah you heard him right, that was another advantage of a Sennen Item: no nightmares. Ever. Actually, misnomer there, only Yugi's Sennen Item was a cure all for bad dreams. Ryou swore he'd had them almost continuously when the Spirit of the Ring had kept him half blacked out of his own life for two years. Yugi on the other hand? None. In the same way the Pharaoh had kept him guarded from every bully, every emotional rough spot, every big bad, the Pharaoh had ensured through the mind link Yugi never had a bad night's sleep so long as he was watching over them. It was one of those additives, an extra-curricular protection, that was unnecessary and which the Pharaoh refused to talk about, embarrassed, but insisted on doing.
Yugi missed the gold, missed the warmth, the weight of the Puzzle which had waited five thousand and eight years for him to piece it together. The ceremonial duel had been exhausting and now all Yugi had to show for it was the gold box the puzzle had rested in, his deck and finals to tie off his high-schooling.
Footsteps padded, barefoot, down the doughy carpeted hallway and Yugi rued a little. He must've been thinking too loudly. That was always a risk here in the Kame Game Shop, it had been since he was sixteen, Grandpa would sleep through almost any noise but if Yugi didn't hush his thoughts and keep them mellow and simple well…
Yugi raised his head off the pillow, no point pretending to be asleep, and watched, quirking his knee up under the blanket, as the door split open and ever so politely quiet Yami shuffled in.
You okay? Yami always got to asking that first. He was quick on that trigger and Yugi nodded dully as the thought wafted through what was, somehow, left of the mind link.
Yami didn't like actually speaking to Yugi if he could avoid it however odd or inconsiderate watching eyes found the privacy of their conversation. Jou forgave them, Anzu found it mildly frustrating when one or the other would laugh without verbal cue and Yugi had taken to answering the Pharaoh aloud in public even if the Pharaoh was reluctant to ask aloud. At night like this Yami's pretence was not disturbing his Grandfather but that was a thin ruse if ever Yugi spotted one.
You? Yugi supposed.
Just fine, Pharaoh promised, can I stay here?
There was a contradiction but Yugi would allow it. He was too tired and there was some harmless pleasures to be found in not arguing. Yami would never admit to needing help, never admit to Yugi anything was ever wrong, half because he was a king of Egypt and half because Yugi represented an almost sacred commodity to protect. For how much longer that ridiculousness would subsist Yugi wasn't sure now that Pharaoh had a body of his own and a new forked path into the future to trace alone.
Yugi consented over the mind link, not really with a yes but some un-worded affirmative that Yami gobbled up to permit himself to creep closer. Yugi shuffled till his back hit the wall and Yami sunk under the blankets to grab, wrap and hold him. The bed was tiny still. Yugi needed to rearrange the furniture before he got a bigger one but it didn't seem necessary to him as of yet. Yami for his part seemed to use it as an excuse to sequester Yugi in his arms for a few hours of privacy.
Pharaoh had a bed, a better sized one at that, in what used to be Yugi's parents' room but apparently having his own chambers was somehow too… something for the spirit to bear for long. Yugi supposed he was more accustomed to sleeping with Yugi nearby, sleeping in Yugi's room, than any other since Egypt and while they were both adjusting to this bizarre shift of reality it seemed appropriate to let Yami intrude on his personal space.
How on Earth had they secured Yami a body? He pondered a little too hard.
Never mind right now, Yami ordered drawing circles between his shoulder blades, it's too complicated to bother with.
Yugi still had to catch himself sometimes. If he thought a little too lazily, a little too outside his box, then Yami heard very clearly. That aside this weird physical reality had been an unexpected side effect of the ceremonial duel. It had been a third option out offered in the final moments.
The general consensus between the humans and the gods that day seemed to be that Yami had died too young and had done more than his due for a little bit of vacation time. Yami had seemed to quite like the idea, rather exuberant, but he and Yugi had exchanged, for a second, that knowingly confounded look of pondering why and how the gods would let them get away with it. Jou, Anzu, Honda, and the others might not know like they did but Yami and Yugi understood the contradiction there. Yami was Yugi or Yugi's past life more accurately so technically speaking he was living out a new life as Yugi and the ceremonial duel should have only served to retire what was the Pharaoh to the afterlife and free if from confinement in the puzzle. There was something wrong about twisting magic that far back to reward them.
Yami knew why, Yugi knew why, they'd gotten away with it but it wasn't worth talking about with anyone else or with each other in great detail. The gods were playing fix up. Yami and Yugi, by sharing as two separate entities, had become two separate entities. They'd split the soul effectively half with shadow magic and half with the thoughts of their own lived experience. You couldn't sew Yugi as exactly Yami anymore. It didn't work. The distinction between them had become more extreme, like a scale, qualities jumping ship from Yami to settle forevermore with Yugi and others lightening the boy to escape back into the Pharaoh. Yami was his own person.
What are you buzzing about so hard? Pharaoh demanded gently, mind half prodding at Yugi's as he ran his fingers through the boy's hair and brought them both to exhale.
Nostalgia, Yugi answered allowing a segment of a thought out to Yami's inspection but hoarding the rest for himself. He implied it was harmless nothings and it was.
School, tests, tomorrow, Yami reminded, think about them. Go to sleep Aibou.
Yugi felt like a Siamese twin. What happened now? Now that there was no vast unknowable future that would conceivably rip them asunder forever Yugi almost missed it. He wasn't sure what to do now. It was prickly that he couldn't, still, untangle the pair of them quite right and get off on his own. He had loved the thrill of adventure that all this had brought with it but now that the adventure was gone and they were, like story book heroes, living out the years of simplicity off the page after the big Happily-Ever-After he felt a little trapped. Yugi was almost eighteen, high school was almost done, and he was chomping at the bit for that burning independence Yami had taught him and was now subverting by clinging.
He had needed the Pharaoh desperately but now, however ungrateful it was, it felt like the Pharaoh needed Yugi far more than the reverse. Like a house guest who'd stayed too long.
Yugi shuddered under the first spray of the shower mouth gaping, then lips pursing, closing his eyes as the water wiped his face and the temperature rose. Throwing himself right under the cold rather than hopping on his feet on the tiles was a thrilling minor resistance to everyday cowardice. It slapped him into consciousness in the early morning when his head was still lulling in a haze.
He spun a little, systematic in the up and down of the lotions and potions amassed on the floor of the shower. Shampoo, conditioner, shower gel… they really needed one of those hanging shelf things in here now Grandpa was getting older. Arthritis didn't appreciate the bending and crouching of the joints. Running his hands through his hair, over and over, he worked the suds out. Conditioner slickened his fingers and for a moment seemed to change the texture of his hair.
Beyond the grumbling pipes he expanded his mind outside the bathroom walls. Shadow magic was still layered in the house at the Pharaoh's insistence and through it Yugi could perceive that Grandpa was up, prepping the store, and through brushing the mind link he found Yami downstairs making breakfast.
The Pharaoh must've caught Yugi's mind brushing his curiously and flickering up from the frying pan Yami pushed back into the boy's mind in response. Yugi blocked him out, flaring back up his privacy, with utterances, un-worded mental gibberish, that explained and hopefully contented the Pharaoh that all was well. Yugi half sensed Yami chuckling and lingering on the edges of their link and for a moment wondered if it would fade.
Shadow Magic had existed and been called upon for centuries before the Sennen Items were made so really it was no surprise that even without the Items they still possessed abilities like this. Though, Yugi had to ask himself if the mind link in particular was just a stubborn piece of magic that now, without the Puzzle, would dissipate over time as they grew more apart and put more distance between each other. Surely when Yugi travelled after school, took his long planned gap year, the bond wouldn't be able to stretch that far and taunt might break.
That wouldn't be a bad thing, not entirely, but Yugi would miss it. He was semi-disposed to let whatever happened happen but his thoughts on the matter were at least mildly jumbled. He didn't know if he wanted to see into Yami's mind all the time, especially not as they got older: found girlfriends, had kids, got jobs… because he certainly didn't want to let Yami see something intimate by accident. He was growing up. Yugi wanted privacy and independence from parental influence and censorship. Surely Yami wanted it too, surely Yami wanted to be free of the hassle of monitoring him so continuously, but Yugi supposed Yami was too stubborn to withdraw until time and fate made him.
He loved the Pharaoh in that filial, strange, way he loved Jou and Grandpa and everyone else he would never let get away from him but…
Yugi felt silly. Conspiratorial and ungrateful for how stifled he was reacting under Yami's observance. It was like he was fourteen feeling trapped by an overbearing parent. Yugi had been a good teenager these past few years, hormones had been reasonable, and all their adventure had given him a healthier way to rebel against Grandpa without being a fool.
That sounded sillier actually. Spreading his wings had probably involved more danger than any other teenager in his school had dipped their toes into but Grandpa was so slack he allowed it and Yugi had never become a brat like some kids by eating up that freedom. School was harder now for it but he had been momentarily settled for it. A little… three months back and he already wanted to hop continents again… He had a gypsy in him Yugi was convinced.
He didn't understand it, really, what was irritating him or baulking him uncomfortably but something hazed him lately like an itch.
He wasn't making sense, not to himself anyway, and shaking his head back under the water to cut back his oxygen tried to wash the thought back away. School first, the guys first, and if this feeling didn't fade he'd figure it out later. He was thinking too much hazy gibberish right now.
"Breakfast?" Yami offered round his fork when Yugi skidded into the kitchen heaving his school bag.
"No thanks Pharaoh."
"Yugi," he chided, leaning in his seat to grasp the boy as he tried to dart pass.
Calm, considerate, normal concern on the Pharaoh's part Yugi dismissed. It was part of his charm but Yami's hand found Yugi's wrist a little too tightly. It hurt, just for a second, and in that second Yugi was sure… there was a ripple of sensation, a stabbing feeling, at the very back of him mind that rose his hackles like looking too closely at Bakura. Had Yami been eavesdropping somehow? Yugi buried the idea. Something felt sharp in his gut.
"I don't feel like it," he insisted smooth but brisk, squeezing himself free of the gentle grip. "I'll have a big lunch. Have fun with Grandpa!"
"Bye," Pharaoh sighed, leaning back into his seat and spreading the newspaper. "Have a good day!"
Yugi adored Anzu but she could, at times, be a wet blanket. She had a very keen way of spotting when he was uneasy and pouncing upon it to try and fix the matter. Brushing her back from what he hardly understood himself wasn't easy but Yugi felt less like talking than he had expected he would when he woke this morning.
Was something wrong with Yami? Had something gone wrong when the gods had manufactured him this time? Yugi struggled with the concept. No, he told himself, the Pharaoh was clingy, cloying, it was nothing serious. Superstition pressured his throat anxiously and he had some vague suspicion that if he started looking for something to be wrong it would be. There seemed to be some unspoken spell, rule, that dictated if Yugi spoke about it then it would happen, it would be real and undeniable. It was stupidity, sure, but heavily weighted with memories of the Spirit of the Ring. Yami had never been like that, Yami would never be like that, paranoia was juxtaposing against Yugi's guilty bleeding heart for Ryou and making him anxious.
That feeling, just below the surface of the Pharaoh's mind, just submerged and waiting for Yugi's notice riled him and the bile in his stomach.
It was no surprise his shoulders sagged when the day was over.
"Yami?" He wavered by the school gate stomach dropping unhappily as he tried to work the guilty dismay out of his eyes.
"Hey Pharaoh!" Anzu quirked.
"Hi Anzu," the elder smiled diligently, flickering to Yugi. "Just thought I'd meet you to walk home. It was getting cramped in the store."
"You guys want to go out to the arcade or something?" Anzu offered friendly as ever. "Get a milkshake and hang out for a while."
"Um…" Yugi wavered. Unsure what sounded better or worse at the current moment and Yami lurched to beat him to the punch.
"No thank you Anzu." He soothed charming, polite, everything Pharaoh should have been with his soft smiles and easy stance. "I'm too lazy today. Might just take Yugi home if you two don't mind?"
"That's okay," she shrugged, "I better study anyway."
"You almost ready for America?"
"Yeah, hope so," she smiled. "Got an audition so fingers crossed."
"You'll do great," Yami assured, and lulled stiff Yugi was wondering, traitorously, at the back of his mind if Yami would've found a way to get him home even if Anzu had plans with Yugi.
It was wrong. Yugi couldn't place his discomfort but as Anzu turned between them all he could think was: don't leave me alone with him.
"I'll see tomorrow Yug," she patted at him, stirring a congenial smile on his behalf because manners prompted it. She headed down the street, half spun, waved and dismissed: "have a good night guys!"
"You too!" Yugi retorted with the dull practice of familiarity.
It settled then, the unsteady, creeping, uncertainty that had been riling Yugi increasingly. He and Yami exchanged smiles, unsure what to say or how to say it and cocking his head the Pharaoh pushed them on home.
"Let me take your bag," he ordered softly, offering his hand to Yugi.
"It's heavy." He insisted. "I don't mind."
"Okay," Yugi relented, he didn't want to. He wanted to be left well enough alone with his things as they walked. "We should go out with Jou and Anzu and Honda sometime soon. Maybe this weekend?"
"Not this weekend," the Pharaoh dismissed languidly, appealing. "Later."
"They miss you." He pestered. "They're going to get upset if I hog you all to myself especially because you're not fab at the whole email thing."
"I know," he sighed, "it'll be fine. I just don't feel like it right now."
"Okay," Yugi groaned weakly, frustrated. "But if Anzu gets pissed I'm telling her to lecture you."
"Why should they?" Pharaoh murmured. "It's not like I came out every other day when I was in the puzzle. Most of the time they only really talked to you, they just watched me duel, what are they missing?"
"They want to have you to themselves more." He attempted tightly. "They like you they want to be your friend as well."
"I know, I know," Yami groaned. "I will. I just don't feel like it right now. How was your day?"
"Boring," Yugi dismissed stubbornly.
"Are you alright?" The other muttered as they walked, hefting Yugi's bag on his shoulder, "what's wrong?"
"Nothing," he lied, "I'm just tired."
Yugi dug through his pockets again, rifled through the top drawer, and ran through the closet. Motion carried with it that trance like familiarity. He'd spun the room three times in as many minutes, searching and ferreting and burrowing through piles of books, loose bits of paper and heaps of clothes. He was attempting what his mother would've called 'a mummy look' which always seemed to find one lost treasure or another in an initial sweep of any space spotting something men like Yugi and his Grandfather missed in the obvious. He had that little boy insistence that even if it wasn't anywhere he checked maybe it would be if he checked there again, maybe he hadn't moved all the clothes out of the way right, or maybe he needed to tip the drawer out.
"Yugi!" Grandpa called up the stairs. "You're going to be late!"
"I know!" He sighed back loudly.
A little bit of young paranoia swept through his cockles. Even at almost eighteen Yugi had his safety blankets he just didn't think about them with incredible depth anymore. The Dark Magician was one. It seemed to drag him out on top frequently. It had history. The Pharaoh may have had it for their final duel but Yugi had sequestered it for his day to day deck. It gave him a sense of reassurance. He could be challenged for his title at any point at least having the Dark Magician on hand gave some semblance of assurance if that happened.
Yugi didn't really think much about being challenged anymore. It seemed less likely now there were no Shadow Games to use Duel Monsters for. Yet this morning, average as it was, just the absence of the Dark Magician grit his teeth at edge with soft anxiety. He'd win if someone challenged him today but he had a sense it would feel like more of a struggle if he didn't know the Dark Magician was somewhere in his deck to be drawn.
Yugi glanced at his watch, had to glance again because he wasn't paying attention the first time, and knew he'd be late. He'd have to run under the gooey sun either way now it was just a matter of how late he would be. It wouldn't matter, Grandpa was flippant, give it another half an hour and the old man would say there was no point Yugi going till after lunch or at all for the day. He may be shuffled into the game shop to guard it like a delinquent so the old man could watch documentaries but that would be about all the consequence he received.
Well that and Yami.
The Spirit had been forced to spend his days taking refuge as Grandpa's grunt in the game shop. The Pharaoh had nothing to take off with yet. The Ishtars were still forging him paperwork in Cairo to use here in Japan: birth certificate, high school diploma… people papers that tied him to the modern world and said he existed. In effect they were making papers that would convince most big bodies that Yami hadn't just wafted into being from nothing. Pegasus and Kaiba would care less if Yami had four eyes considering how badly they wanted to snatch him up after the Pharaoh had 'adjusted' but the rest of the world would. When Yami wanted a licence, a home loan, another job they would want to know he was real. The Ishtars luckily were convenient like that. Ishizu had to fake them a family of documentation after leaving the Tomb Keepers secret society, to which they could never return, and Marik had plenty of connections for that thanks to his Rare Hunters enterprise.
Yugi had a score of convenient friends come to think of it. Most things he could want, illegal or not, he was a favour away from getting…
Either way coming back round, cyclical in thought like the eternity snake pattern Yugi had seen millions of times, to the original point Yugi would be stuck for the day with Yami. Would the Pharaoh like that? Who knew anymore? Yugi felt himself hackle deeper with his already itching unease. A month or two ago Yugi would've salivated at an excuse to steal some more time in the quiet but charming company of the embodied spirit but today playing Duel Monsters idly at the counter of the game shop seemed dangerous and foreign. He might as well have been promised to spend the day stuck on a stationary train.
Yugi would have to give up on the Dark Magician for now. His keys, which had tumbled off into nothingness as well, could be missed with less care. Yami or Grandpa would be home when he got home. He could just come in through the store rather than the backdoor. Simple. He wasn't dependent on the silverware.
Irritability decreased a little as he scrambled up the last of his things and padded, no hands, down the stairs and into the store.
"Back later guys," he dismissed nonchalantly, hurried. Now that he actually cared if he missed the morning bell by five minutes or ten he was much keener to escape the house in good time.
"Yugi," Yami drew him, and as the boy turned the Pharaoh tossed him a jingling set of keys. "You left them in the washing."
"Thanks!" Yugi darted.
Laundry? That sounded about right. Yugi could believe he'd left them in the pocket of his other set of pants but the memories of laying his keys out on his desk every night, of playing with them while he studied, made any recognition of if he had or not last night hazy.
Weirder still was the rush of distaste as Yami handed them to him. It was mundane, casual, helpful but eerily enraging to Yugi somehow. The Pharaoh as keeper of the keys, securer of the house and judge of where or when Yugi went was the frustrated, resentful, thought that trickled to mind without any obvious reason. Guilt stabbed at Yugi lightly but the resentment wouldn't fade. Little suggestions, traitorous ideas, about where his Dark Magician card had waltzed off to sprang to mind unwarranted. So what if Yami did have it? He tried to tell himself. The Pharaoh had more claim to the card than Yugi did, if he'd moved it, but still brushing logic aside the thought of having his things ruffled through without acknowledgement stirred him.
It would be a misunderstanding. Yugi would find the card when he got home. It would probably be lodged between the pages of one of the English books in his bag and flicking he'd probably find it during lunch to feel ridiculous.
He didn't find it.
He refused to get a new one. He wanted that one. Childishly naïve as it sounded, being there were thousands of prints of the Dark Magician some of them cooler, Yugi felt his couldn't be replaced with something newer and shinier. He had an invisible string to the weathered edges of that card.
"What have you lost?" Yami murmured lazily over the rim of his book, slouched in the lounge, feet crossed propped on the coffee table.
For a second they were not almost siblings. For a second they were some fifties married couple and then warping in the next second Yami was Pharaoh and Yugi was a slave, servant, sprawled on his knees reaching under the throne to grope the carpet.
Shame crept into his mind. The lock on their mind link Yugi had been unknowingly building wavered, clinking and rattling it, and sighing he tried to be understood by rushing some of the unhappiness, the concern, the guilt at having lost what was essentially a gift forfeited by the Pharaoh.
"I can't find the Dark Magician." Yugi grumbled weakly.
"When'd you see it last?"
"Sunday," he croaked, he hated Wednesdays.
"It'll turn up." Pharaoh promised nonchalantly.
There was a childish feeling of being unsupported and Yugi hissed against his own insides. There was another bud of resentment at Yami's lack of concern, at his uselessness but at once Yugi loathed himself for it given how he'd wanted freedom and independence as he still did. His insides made no sense and resecuring the mind link shut distantly, greedily needy for privacy, Yugi sighed and drifted back up the stairs.
Yugi tossed, back ached, and dragged the pillow over his head. He was lethargic, discontented and uneasy. His mind wouldn't settle clammed up by its lonesome but half unwilling and half concerned he liked the idea of letting the Pharaoh wander in unabated even less.
He didn't know if Yami was up, it must've been three am, but he didn't see any point in checking regardless.
Math test tomorrow, which he cringed at, studying meant very little when he had no natural aptitude for the subject. He could calculate life point damage with a head cold, do it in his head quick hand, but geometry and trigonometry and interest hurt his synapses. He was humanities heavy handed: history, lots of history, and social sciences and fodder like that which was less practical and wholly more high cultural arts savvy.
Was that keeping him up? The test? No that was mundane and while he struggled to look forward to that portion of tomorrow he wasn't at all afraid to face it. It was a lazy dislike. He would go, scrape a mark and then forget all about math till next week.
He was restless, unhappy, wrong inside. Something parasitic was turbulent lodged in his chest, his gut and between his temples as it stirred up turmoil. Somehow he felt trapped and worrisome for no discernible reason. He wanted to cry for an inhale, then not when he exhaled, and the scattershot of it made him wonder if he needed mood stabilizers.
Yami butted against his end of the mind link and peeking his head out from under the pillow Yugi pushed himself up in time to see the Pharaoh part the door from the frame.
"Hey," the other whispered, "can I join you?"
No! Don't touch me!
It was a flair of panic tightly restrained behind Yugi's mental wall at the sound of that charming baritone. Yugi tried to quell it, Pharaoh couldn't have heard it, but he couldn't place the reason for its origin. His skin crept a little and the thought remained that Yugi didn't want to be touched.
He shook his head weakly, apologetic, and sulked.
"I feel gross," Yugi tried to explain, "I'm sore."
Reasonable reasons to not want to be cramped in a single bed with two people. They needed to sleep. Yami had very little to fill his days but he was too considerate not to appreciate Yugi's schooling. Still the Pharaoh frowned, concerned or displeased? Yugi had a hard time telling with the link closed, blindsided suddenly, and sneaking closer the man waded, half kneeling, to press his palm against Yugi's forehead.
The boy pulled back. He didn't like the touch, wanted it gone immediately for some infectious fear Yugi couldn't word.
"You feel hot?" Yami asked gently, hand lowering without reaction when the boy cringed back.
"No," Yugi muttered, "my head just hurts."
"You want anything?"
"Nah I'm good," he insisted casually, "I'll feel better once I sleep. I think I'm overtired."
"Okay," Pharaoh allowed, and Yugi was grateful he didn't push. It almost made the boy want Yami back in bed with him, almost urged him to push back the covers and invite the Pharaoh there to scratch his back but the thought was crushed instantly by some unpleasant reluctance. Grateful or not Yugi didn't want Yami near him.
Yugi felt guarded. Felt watched. The atmosphere in the house had taken a tangible shift. Yami hadn't come back to his room but the parasitic thought was growing. Something was wrong. Every day he couldn't find the Dark Magician felt a little more cursed.
He'd lost his keys, again, three days on and no luck finding them. Grandpa had told him to get a new set on the weekend just in case which meant trekking down to the main street rather than lounging in his PJs on Saturday. Yugi would rather that though. The dependence of coming back after an afternoon at the arcade and being reliant on Yami to let him into his own home was packed with discontentment. Yami gave no impression of it but for some reason Yugi felt he liked it this way, that there was some unforeseen smugness in it when Pharaoh smiled to unlock the back door and asked him, oh so smoothly, where he'd been and if he'd had fun.
Yugi had been closing his door tighter. Not that the physical action could be more conclusive without slamming. More he seemed to pack some intent, some message, of 'leave me alone' and 'don't come in' to the wood subconsciously. 'I want to be safe here, this is my space, leave me alone' radiated out from him when he drew up the blankets.
His unspoken spells didn't appear to help however. Not today. Settling home after another test Yugi had the presence of infection itching at him. As he sat he was sure someone had touched his desk, sat on his bed, and intruded his nesting place while he'd been gone. Irritation scalded his skin and remaking the bed he may as well have been in London during the plague fear, anxiety, driving him obsessively to cleanse and feel sullied.
He might've stayed in his room, mentally barricading as he troweled his book but there was something on about Egypt, Amenhotep IV and Akhenaten, and that was enough to gather up the Motou family in this house. Grandpa sat back, some Santa Clause on a Hallmark card, in his arm chair with his belly puffed out after dinner and grunting gently ordered Yami to handle the remote. The Spirit had become reasonably deft with the contraption and curling his legs up under him on the couch Yugi rested his chin on his forearms across the armrest.
History documentaries were bedtime stories to Yugi. Grandpa would always get so excited by them when he'd been small. He'd prop Yugi up in his lap and the boy would be permitted to watch that for a stolen ten or fifteen minutes past his bed time. Yugi remembered vividly, fondly, asking at six 'what happened next? Was it a boy?' when he'd been forced to nod off before the end of a Henry VIII special halfway through the retelling of Jane Seymour's pregnancy. So he was relatively at peace lulling here with the Pharaoh and Grandpa in silence.
Commercials had always been an opportunity to critique. Grandpa didn't like believing everything that was spoon fed to the masses on history, least of all Egyptian history, and with their own insider the old man was very intent on cross examining the Pharaoh about inaccuracies. Yugi snorted. How surreal could you get? A documentary about a Pharaoh, ancient, who was some great grandson to their Pharaoh…
He was soothed by normalcy. A soothing, creaming, balm had been applied to the wound and he lulled a little looser in his curl, toes brushing Yami's jean clad thigh on the other end of the couch. The Pharaoh leant back as he spoke, totally unawares and easy as his hand rested on Yugi's bare ankle.
Yugi felt good, better, happy.
They seemed in their right places again everything perfectly normal. Grandpa snorted, twitching his nose round his whiskers and as the commercial ended Yami's thumb started to run distantly back and forth over the ball of Yugi's ankle as if it were attached to some cat and barely there at all.
Yugi unwound over the next thirty minutes safe as he dazed. Barely noticeable as he stretched himself a little, careless about the hazards of touching the Pharaoh who had somehow been neutered of whatever poison had been unsettling him.
The special ended, Grandpa checked the programming, and watching one show turned, as it often did, into watching three as inertia held them all in place.
At about eleven Grandpa yawned boorishly, sniffing, and patting his armrest lumbered out of the chair.
"A cuppa and then bed I think," he decided, "night boys. Don't stay up too late."
"Night," they chorused, and the spell seemed broken.
Yugi curled his feet back in, sat up a tad, and elbow on the armrest leant his cheek into it. As Grandpa exited the darkened lounge into the foreign light of the distant kitchen Yugi had the oddest sensation of being marooned, stranded, on an island body. He was alone now in some tomb and without Yami ever looking at him, the Pharaoh's hand arms folded over his own navel, Yugi seemed to feel the other's attention return and attune its focus back upon him.
He checked the mind link was locked up tight. Inhaled and suddenly found himself searching for excuses whether to stay or go. He wasn't tired. He wanted to ask, afraid to turn his head to the Pharaoh, wanted to know and challenge him about the missing card, the missing keys even, but couldn't bring himself to admit his suspicions.
Why did this feel strange?
The most mundane thing in the world was transpiring round him but as Grandpa lumbered back up the stairs to bed Yugi felt some expectation. He felt as if he'd been left alone with something to do something inappropriate.
"I'm going to crash," he muttered suddenly, dragging himself out of the plush of the couch.
"Night Yugi," how did the Pharaoh make his name transform into a term of endearment?
The couch creaked, old and lumpy, and leaning with one hand resting on the backing Yugi plucked a kiss against Yami's forehead. The Pharaoh seemed to smile, to take a deep breath, as Yugi's lips touched his tender skin and Yugi instantly regretted doing it. Yugi stood, the Pharaoh's hand ran its fingers along the inside of the dangling palm by his side and squeezing it lightly Yami kissed the back of the skin.
"Sleep tight," he relented, letting go.
Yugi felt a snake coil in his stomach, a primal sense of danger, and muttering some misnomer in acknowledgement moved briskly away. He wanted distance back between them. He didn't like the sudden drop in temperature and as he mounted the stairs he seemed to catch a whiff of something rolling rotten off Yami's mind. It was a shapeless phantom thought Yugi wouldn't touch or recognise but he felt it inside the Pharaoh as they parted and it seemed to darken the entire downstairs.
When he slipped into his bedroom, he leant his back into the door, as if he might be followed and forced to open his barricade. The whole lower level of the house had a sensation to it now, where Yami lounged, that was dangerously threatening. Yugi was trepidatious to return until morning, as if pursued, and it was the same little boy feeling of there being a beast under the bed which used to make him afraid to look and now made him afraid to leave his room.
Yugi was sickened by the foul curiosity to look behind him and the nervy push to avoid it at all costs. He took up a hermitage in his room rather unthinkingly. He found the pattern he needed to eat, sleep and avoid Yami in one foul swoop.
It was cramped. The tension that told him he was safer behind his impenetrable door. The mental lock which he was enforcing was starting to give him headaches in the morning and despite his constant fiddling, checking, securing the link wasn't fading from disuse. If anything the mink link seemed to be rife with inflammation and Yugi woke to find it bruised. Perhaps the Pharaoh was trying to push on it in his sleep?
He managed a week with the throbbing migraine that came from suppressing the mind link, a week avoiding Yami's body and his mind. A week of cold turkey felt like it would kill him with the struggle but Yugi relished the freedom of it. He had to remind himself to strain with his ears, his eyes, and not his mind but with seven days down and dead, slaughtered, there were only three more weeks till the end of term. Then the Ishtars would send Yami his paper work and then Yugi would move. He couldn't be in this house.
Saturday morning, at about five thirty when the light was just tinging gold, the pressure redoubled agonisingly.
Yugi groaned, twisting onto his side in the bed, fumbling his feet onto the cool carpet. One hand grasped at the bedside desk and he shook in a breath.
He wanted to vomit, his temples pounded with a pulse that enforced the nausea and in an attempt to soothe the ache Yugi hobbled across the hall to lock himself in the bathroom. He stripped in fast business like motions, tore the tee over his head, tugged too hard at the old elastic in the pants to force them down his thighs. The world spun a little…
Ducking himself under the cold water, he inhaled, grasping the taps and felt he was in one of those dreadful alien movies getting ready to cut himself open to pull out some dark invader. Focusing he pushed the mind link down, he inhaled tightly, biting his lip. Fuck it hurt.
He wanted it out of him, wanted it over, wanted to be alone and safe in his own head where he couldn't feel that mysterious belly of the beast rumbling on the other side of the string which connected him and Yami.
Yugi pressed his forehead into the wall, ground his teeth to save his lip and salvaging some strength as the cold water tensed his spine gave another mental push. He committed a cardinal sin: he tried to sever the mind link himself.
He pushed, cut, tried to rip and tug inside himself but the chain wouldn't come lose from his end or his mind. It was a fish hook his frontal lobe had grown round and, panting and whining, Yugi had to take another breath to try again to destroy it.
It was agony.
Marik sending pieces of his soul to the Shadow Realm hadn't hurt like this. Yugi could bear that, could bear being yanked out of his body by Dartz or mentally under assaulted by Pegasus but trying to cut the perfect chain between his mind and Yami's was blissfully tortuous.
Yugi coughed, bile rising as his body rebelled against the mental strain and unable to hold back his contorting through wrenched over the tiles and splattered himself with gobs of last night's dinner. Hissing, he gulped back in air, letting the bile burn his oesophagus. He hiccupped, turning his face up into the water as he rose the heat finally to cleanse himself.
He couldn't cut it. It wouldn't die. This parasite making him ache wouldn't come out.
There was only minor relief in acting out, in trying to sever the mind link, but the violence and the junk he'd forced out of his stomach abated the nausea and swept him cold with a moment of temporary reprise.
He felt a little lighter, a little less sick, and shaking pushed. He tried to find a reserve of strength to touch what was, inside his mind, a bleeding wound. Pus, infection, inflammation and gaping searing pain were rolling off the mind link but he could almost numb it if he didn't touch it. The pain of trying to not use it was nothing to the pain of trying to destroy it. It was like having a shattered bone under the skin of his forearm. He collected himself and pushing back a little tried to Band-Aid it.
Cauterising the mind link hadn't worked. It was worse than ever and would not dissipate. Yugi didn't know if Yami could feel it either but he was in no mood to find out. He relocked his mind, still felt the pain, but tried to ignore the break to lessen some of the agony.
He felt every bit the delinquent when he bundled himself up in the towel, still shaking, pressed his ear to the door and snuck back to his room. Clicking the door behind him he wished he had a lock.
There was a ripple in his gut, a warning, as if very shortly what he had just tried to kill would send up an alarm. He had some impression Yami would notice, the Pharaoh would wake up and know, and then Yugi would be in for some kind of hell. He moved on instinct quiet, muffled but fast. The jeans slid up his thighs like a knife through butter, softly rustling, and he grabbed the first worn tee he could lay his fingers on.
Boots came on only when he hit the side walk outside the store front, sitting in a gutter, and then Yugi started walking.
He hadn't snuck since before the Memory World.
Rubbing his clammy palms against the outside of his thighs he made himself put one leg in front of the other. He could still taste the sting in the back of his throat and it motivated him to move a little quicker.
Yugi must've crossed Domino by midmorning. Wiry, sharp, from the emptiness in his stomach he felt vulnerable in public. He realized, already on the street, that he'd walked so far he'd made it to Ryou's place. That quietly solemn, prim, out of the way apartment complex that sounded and felt devoid of human life on a perfectly cropped bit of land that made Yugi consider if Ryou had any neighbours at all or if the Spirit of the Ring had driven them all away.
He inhaled, puffing his chest, still sweaty from what must've been fever. His body was heating up against the infection inside his brain as part of reflex to kill whatever scum was plaguing him. He let his eyes trail up the sun hit slope of the building and instantly wanted Ryou's soothed company. Had Bakura felt like this when the Ring had tormented him? He had been paranoid and defensive and lost trying to salvage himself by lashing back at the thing squatting in his head and his body?
Yugi wanted to hide with Ryou.
The other student was a rabbit, a mouse, a squirrel and he quirked his head dumbly when he found Yugi flushed on his doorstep as if fresh from battle. Bakura was in his sagging night clothes, looking very small, and mumbling blinked.
"Yugi?" His shoulders, which had tensed, slumped with knowing intimacy but then re-bunched like rose stems pulled in. "You look horrible."
"I'm fine." He lied. He felt relief. Ryou's very presence was a cool breeze on his fevered body. "Can I hang out with you for a while?"
"Sure," the boy lilted, "I was going to have breakfast. Do you mind?"
"No," Yugi insisted, and it took mannerism, inbuilt politeness, not to lunge over the threshold when Ryou moved to make room for him.
Ryou was so like him. Yugi loved him for it. There was an understanding appreciation and Ryou was never enviable, never nasty, never jealous. Yugi felt better, felt safer, when Bakura locked the door behind them and they slumped at the breakfast table. Bakura had shadow magic of his own even now. The whole apartment felt like a show room thanks to the compulsions of his and everything was clean and disinfected of madness. The Spirit of the Ring and all its traces had been eradicated, exorcized, and Yugi's shake decreased letting his muscles unwind.
"You want some too?" The other offered at the sink, tugging up the elastic of his pants with one hand at his hip. "Just cereal sorry. I need to go grocery shopping."
"Can I please?" Yugi laughed. "That sounds good. I'm starving."
Ryou was abandoned by his parentals, his father, and Yugi had to wonder if Ryou's father wasn't just some figment or if the man had utterly forgotten the son who was now little more than a strain on his comfortable bank account. Ryou never appeared, on the smooth surface, to mind and Yugi understood the independence of being a child left to forage for yourself. He understood how it opened doors to dark, mysterious, places by providing an unsupervised opportunity. It was no surprise they both found magic.
Everything in Bakura's home felt sacredly cleansed at some marble altar. Yugi was a pilgrim submerging himself in the depths of it. The cereal was crisp, the milk was razor edge straight in its flavour, and everything was perfect. The apartment had no sentience, no corruption, and Yugi felt for the first time in days that he'd taken something good and uncontaminated into himself. The Pharaoh's aura seemed to rot his appetite and leave the meals feeling stodgy.
"You sure you're alright Yugi?" Ryou asked.
He glanced up and it was as if, sitting across from each other, Yugi and Ryou lived together. It was so un-offensive they might've done so for unmarred years. The sensation was one which carried an un-needy and comfortable ability for silence. Jou didn't like silences and Anzu was not the kind of friend Yugi felt comfortable being silent around. Only Ryou and Honda had this ease which allowed him the freedom not to have to speak at all for them to spend time.
"I'm fine." He laughed. His coils were unwinding. "I woke up really early. Do I have bags under my eyes?"
"You look like a raccoon." Ryou joked bland but sweet with his petite smiles.
"You doing much today?" Yugi supposed.
"Groceries and laziness," he shrugged.
"You want a hand?" He offered.
"That'd be nice," Ryou was always eager for company, thrilled in a totally unassuming and needless way. Bakura didn't need constant company, he enjoyed his own, but together they were easy. "You want to spend the day? We can get junk and watch a movie or something."
"That sounds awesome."
Yugi could see it. They'd go, be mundane, pick out the essentials like a married couple rather than girls for a weekend sleepover. There would be no rushing. Ryou would pluck sensibly. They'd been slow and even handed. They'd come back, prop out a few things to snack on distantly, watch bad TV aimlessly for a while and then decide they should make lunch. Yugi would cook this time, Ryou would prep, chop and grate with the sou chef grace of practice and they'd sit down and waste the rest of the waning afternoon in a soft, tender, seclusion that had no expectations.
It was perfect. Ryou's magic and Yugi's intertwined so easily Yugi felt realigned with himself after just a few short hours. The pain from the link was neutralised by the morphine haze of he and Ryou feeding into each other for a while.
They barely spoke all afternoon, rearranging themselves every hour on the couch, and Yugi threw his legs innocently over Ryou so the other could do the same without either of them needing to ask. It was magnificent. It was antiseptic, sterile, modern, chic and untouched by primal thought, ancient custom, or lurking darkness.
Every step home only coiled Yugi's gut tighter. He considered turning back, borrowing Ryou's fitting clothes and spending the night but he couldn't put the boy out. It felt inappropriate, cowardly, so he made himself walk back. Every step away, across town, had lightened him and now as he followed the setting sun made him heavier. It took an hour to get home. He'd cleared so much space and created so much distance.
The sun was a low disk in the sky, Saturday wasted pointlessly, when he found the hulking case of the Game Shop. Could he do this? The shop was closed. Entering now would just set off the bell. He'd take the long way through the back door to his room which would take him through almost every room in the tiny house. Grandpa would probably be in the lounge or in the kitchen making dinner at least.
The kitchen window was dark but he held out hope for humanity in the lounge as he drove his key into the lock delicately.
The house was empty?
So Yugi supposed anyway. There was no one in the lounge, no one in the kitchen, lights off, sunlight souring in the store front. It was deceptively peaceful.
Yugi's felt weightless, stomach flipping, as he hit the couch. Nothing hurt. Yami was too careful for that. He squirmed before he knew what had happened. The Pharaoh had one leg on the ground, his opposing knee in the small of Yugi's back, one hand held his neck down the other bent his arm behind his back.
"Get off!" Yugi hissed senselessly.
"What did you do?"
Pharaoh's voice was low, thick, and dangerous. He was fiercely riled, frothing at the mouth, and Yugi's instincts which should have told him to still had never been more vicious with the urge to bite and kick. The Pharaoh may have had him pinned by he'd find no submission here if that was what he was looking for.
"I don't know what you're talking about!" He seethed. "Now get off!"
Yami's mind tried to rake against his unable to do anything but brush the wall. Regardless the rough bump stirred the mink link, wrenched it, and where Pharaoh hissed through clenched teeth he tore a pained shriek from Yugi.
"Ah!" The pain made him nearly hiccup, free hand digging into the sofa, eyes burning.
Yami made a second attempt languidly precise as he plainly tried to be delicate in his prodding. Every twitch in the synapses sent pain signals ripping through Yugi's temples. Pharaoh groaned and Yugi was sure the other felt it too. Whether his pain was more acute or less Yugi couldn't tell from that King's insistence not to cry out. He tried to be gentle, tried to feel the details of Yugi's mental wall and the mind link with greater experience. He may as well have twisted a fork in an open wound, dug for a bullet, tried to find the break in an arm as far as Yugi was concerned.
"Stop! Stop!" Yugi shrieked into the plush. Everything hurt, his vision exploded, fury passed to sheer agony and Yugi felt himself groaning fall into a choked sob. Sound came out high and broken turning his face into the couch to cry. "Ah!"
"Dammit!" Yami swore, forced to relent, and the boy could feel that the Pharaoh was weakened by him. Yami's insistence to dominate or attack was crushed under his vow, allegiance, to protect and despite the burning urge Yugi knew was there to press deeper the Pharaoh surrendered his attempts at the dissection.
He unhanded Yugi fast, unfurled him, and manhandling the boy fell into the couch to gather Yugi up into his arms. Yugi's body shook, rippled with loathing in pain, and Pharaoh cradled his head, pulling the smaller body into his lap to rock them.
"What did you do?" Yami demanded, baritone deep and panicked. The interrogation in his voice driving for a confession was bleakly brutal but his hands worried Yugi like his was a child trying desperately to iron out the creases of pain in the boy's body.
"It's hurts!" Yugi seethed stubbornly clutching at Yami's shirt, face buried in his clavicle where he brought hot tears to the surface. Yami had hurt him. That distrust, that suspicious resentment and repulsed dislike bloomed.
"I know," the Pharaoh cooed, hand carding through his locks. He was rocking them still, seemed panicked at what he'd done but still on the verge of fury. "What the hell did you do?"
"I want you out of my head," he croaked pathetically, body still bouncing with sobs.
"Why?" Yami demanded and at the complete lack of understanding Yugi pushed at his clavicle, disgusted, and tried to pull away to escape. Pharaoh caught his upper arms in vices, nearly bruising, and refused to let his unwilling, wildly frenzied, body put distance between them. "What's wrong?"
"I don't know!" Yugi spat, tears burning down his cheeks like fire, but his heart supplied plenty of words of its own on the matter. 'I don't trust you' was the top of his list in burning letters.
"Look at me." He ordered fiercely hauling the boy closer again as he squirmed.
Yugi's eyes shot up, furious, loathing and Yami trembled visibly teetering on the edge of his self-control. He wondered if Pharaoh could see it, everything flashing through him as he let the white hot hate bubble through him. Were any of the thoughts clear even if Yami couldn't hear them? 'I don't trust you enough to tell you anything' and worse 'I don't trust you to make this better' or 'I want you to go away'?
"I'll stay out of your head," Pharaoh promised slow and deep before warning, "but promise me you will not do that again. Understand?"
"Let go," Yugi spat, "now."
Yugi couldn't bring himself to give him anything, to release anything, when he was so aflame with this much anger. Yami had hurthim. It relayed over and over in his head. Something was wrong. Yugi was proud, not a cowering weakling and he would not let Pharaoh take anything from him by force. A complete resistance, revolution, against domination was rioting up inside him.
"Your eyes are red." Yugi remarked sharply. It was true, horribly, and as if slapped Yami seemed possessed at the knowledge.
"What?" Yami whispered. He let go, pushed off his calves, and floundering disappeared into the downstairs toilette with fumbling hands.
Yugi darted off the couch, delinquent, and pounding up the stairs freed himself to the seclusion of his room. He fell back onto the bed, body convulsing into trembles, tears resuming in a more intent purposeful way as he buried his face in his knees and cried out to himself like a screaming child.
Yami hadn't had red eyes since the first. The first few times he possessed Yugi they had been brilliantly crimson, as they were now, just as the Spirit of the Ring had made Ryou's eyes greener once upon a time before he learnt better disguises. As the Spirit's primal quality had stripped back, softened, to a gentler kind of wildness Yami hadn't turned his eyes red anymore. By the time they had met inside the Sennen Puzzle Yami's eyes had been indigo like Yugi's and the Spirit had learnt to be not only less vicious but practically a gentleman by the time they entered Battle City. By the Memory World that nobility of a Pharaoh had totally reassembled itself.
Why were they red?
"Yugi?" Grandpa rapped curiously at the back of the door. "Dinner's up."
Groggily Yugi untangled himself from the mess he'd made in the sheets, head heavy from drifting off mid sob. Thank God the old man was home. The house felt less evil with him in it.
"I'm not hungry." He croaked.
"You sure? There's chicken," he tempted.
"No thanks Grandpa," he mumbled.
"Alright," he'd leave left overs in the fridge, or there'd be something else.
Yugi knew well enough how to make a meal by himself after all those months alone and unsupervised while the old man was off in some foreign country not wanting to disturb his schooling. His Grandpa didn't seem to cook anything really, he'd probably been out getting groceries and brought home take out for them. Yami was the only one who liked making family meals. He was fastidious like that.
Yugi preferred the simplicity of making lone portions. It brought back only memories of being thirteen, on a kitchen chair by himself, pouring mix into a pan and making what he wanted to eat for dinner with little lonely hands. The house had felt bigger then, all his, and the dank silence of his lonesome had been mulled by his burgeoning sense of pleasure in the state of peace that came from his own company. He could look after himself, do everything in the house, have it as clean or as dirty as he wanted without anyone checking up on him except for by phone every few days. Really Yugi had run the household himself till recently, it had been his dominion, and now he was scared to leave his rooms and face the beast.
Either he was getting better at avoiding and ignoring or Yami had stopped trying to break into his head. The mink link was less bruised two or three days later but it still intensely painful. The pain was decreasing, Yugi's temples didn't ache from the pressure so insistently, but the wound was still healing. Either way, gaping wound or not, it was still strong, still inflamed, and stiffly cramped where Yugi had set up his battered mental lock.
The Dark Magician was still missing.
So were his original set of keys. His second set had vanished shortly after the Saturday incident and on Wednesday afternoon he found himself perusing his room inquisitively to trace a vein of suspicion.
A CD was gone too. A very well loved and scratched one. One of his bangles was not in his drawer but he was sure it had been not so long ago. Reaching under the bed Yugi tugged out his album, sitting cross legged on the carpet, and listened to the house as he flipped through the pages.
Grandpa was still in the store, probably would be till six, Yami was taking one of his mid afternoon showers like a spoilt cat.
Yugi flipped the page back. There should have been a picture here. He flipped on, skimming, to the end. He traced the page. It was empty too. His stomach dropped, dry ice hitting bile and bubbling to churn in his pelvis. He retraced every page, searching, trying to refresh his memory. Was he thinking of the wrong page? Where the pages stuck? Wasn't it earlier in the book?
Yugi's heart rattled, thump-thump-thump, in his chest.
He couldn't find it on the third retelling of the photo album. The old picture of his parents, the one with the three of them which was such a disastrously rare commodity Pegasus would've consented to make it a collectors' item.
Yugi threw the book across the carpet, found his feet, and imbued with fearlessness traipsed up the hallway past the thrumming of the shower to Yami's bedroom. He wrenched it open, left it thrown traitorously wide and as the intensity in him found a grove that was almost steady he took the handles of the top drawer of Yami's dresser in both hands pulled. He slipped the drawer clean out of the groves and rotating his hands dumped the entire contents haphazardly across the floor.
He didn't care.
Knickknacks tumbled against each other, socks rolled off in one direction, and dumping the wood on the floor Yugi repeated the process with the second drawer. A laptop clunked, rattled, unceremoniously on the already mismatched pile and Yugi let empty drawer number two slam, cracking, to fall onto drawer number one.
Grandpa wouldn't hear it with his dreadful encroaching deafness from too many years near industrial power tools and Yugi, frankly, didn't give a damn if Yami heard him. Let him.
This was the line. This was too far. This was where Yugi called bullshit.
He didn't hear the shower patter die off, pipes moaning in the walls, as he amputated drawer number three from the dresser and, on his hands and knees, began foraging through Yami's bedside table. He felt himself become more desperate when his things didn't just manifest, mind buzzing, and groping his hands tossed books, chargers, socks over his shoulder as he buried into the bedside table.
He pulled out the little drawer because he could, spite full as he shoved it to one side on the carpet breeding bedlam, bacteria, in this room he never wanted to see the inside of ever again. The exoskeleton of this room, the blank door, was bad enough.
He was so far gone he barely noticed. Ripping at the second drawer of the bedside table like a wild animal.
"Yugi." Yami rumbled grabbing him by the shoulders, fingers wet, and hissing Yugi rolled his shoulder free, batted him off with a blind hand behind his back and kept digging. "Yugi stop!"
Pharaoh sunk to his knees, secured his arms round Yugi's torso, pinning the boy's arms to his sides and heaving drew him back into his chest. Yami was sheened with water from the shower, jeans taunt and damp against Yugi's lower back where his shirt rolled up and his bare chest sunk beads of moisture through the clothing.
"What are you doing?" Pharaoh growled into his earlobe squeezing him fast as he squirmed.
"Give it back." Yugi ordered deftly. "Give it all back."
"Give what back?" He held the boy pinned, unyielding, restrictive and the passion creeping into his tone told Yugi that the cut in the mind link which meant Yami was unable to see what Yugi wanted irritated him.
"My parents' photo!" He snapped brazenly.
Yami became very quiet, refusing to let go as they breathed into each other, but didn't deny it.
"My keys," Yugi added, "and the Dark Magician and the rest of my stuff!"
He added layers, peeling back at the unspoken suspicions but Pharaoh said nothing, chest heaving into his back, lips touching his cheek.
"Look at me," Yami ordered softly, arm easing to sink round Yugi's waist as he turned the boy's torso toward him with one firm hand still possessing his tender upper arm. Yugi was burning, molten, inside and refusing to rest his arms upon Pharaoh leant into them planting his palms on either side of Yami's knees.
"I want them back." Yugi repeated stubbornly.
"Kiss me," Pharaoh whispered, gentle.
"What?" Bile, disgust, rebelled inside him at the unrelenting, almost morose, expression on Yami's face.
"Kiss me." Unapologetic, insistent, somehow resilient to the sheer tide of Yugi's anger Pharaoh repeated his price.
Yugi's open palm made delicious contact with the skin of Pharaoh's cheek, smacking brutally, in a way that seemed to wound. It couldn't quite carry the intensity of Yugi's intent, of his repulsion, and pushing off the carpet on his hands and knees the boy dismissed himself.
Yugi would find them, his things, neatly stacked on his desk when he returned home from school Thursday afternoon and as, as far as he was concerned anyway, he had nothing to apologise for. So, that decided, suspicions confirmed and disgust coiling sharply he made no motion to speak to Yami about the slap, the destruction, the request or the theft. Pharaoh didn't deserve that, or maybe he did… no. Not after stealing and infecting the precious well over the line of what was appropriate. Yugi was too far pushed away to bother being kind or reproaching. It wasn't his job to discipline Yami. Yami was an adult, older than Yugi, and he wasn't giving him an inch.
He'd taken, in effect, Yugi's independence, his parents' memory, and his trust in what amounted to a few personal knickknacks. Pharaoh knew the implications. He'd spent enough time squatting round Yugi's soul room for this not to be some cultural misunderstanding between roommates. No, Yugi was still seething.
Perhaps it would have abated sooner if it hadn't been for the kiss. No, there wasn't any kiss Yugi reminded himself at the terminology, just Pharaoh's orders to be bribed and paid for returning what wasn't his. The concept of touching Yami tensed him now. The idea of kissing him repulsed. Not for any physical reason just the disgust, the spite, which had been fostered inside Yugi which surmounted now to a force which might very well have broken his young body asunder.
Yami was handsome, Pharaoh was dashing and charming when he wanted to be or at least he had been. The Spirit of the Puzzle had been his knight in shining armour for a while, had been his confidant, and his hero. Under the right conditions Yugi could've allowed it, could've wanted it, under the current climate he hoped Yami rotted, withered, before touching him again. Yugi wanted to be gone. Felt at war. Felt coerced and encroached and watched. Conscription, propaganda, home fronts…
That strange, bitter, darkness which seemed to pervade the atmosphere of the house had not transformed or withdrawn. Yami was not to surrender yet. That hungry, primordial, desperation Yugi had caught a glimmer of rising within the Pharaoh was still there. Whatever the cause he couldn't place it but Yugi felt the house heave with intent round him like a cocoon. Whatever had soured within Pharaoh, whatever monster writhed, was not dead and Yugi would resist its insidious infectious inklings bitterly.
His mind was Troy. The mind link ached constantly but Yugi was beginning to accustom himself to minimum appetite, little food, little sleep and little comfort. He'd hardened, numbed, to the pain because of its constancy and the spite which made the Pharaoh repulsive propped him up and kept him moving simply to rebel. Yugi was not plush, soft, easily held or stroked and wooed. Yami had made him wiry, lithe and almost wildly sharp in defence against the domination.
"How was school?" Grandpa wriggled his moustache over the paper as leaning into the entrance of the store Yugi pulled off his shoes.
"Good," Yugi grunted, he'd given up trying to get Yami to socialise.
"Exams soon," he the old man relayed the obvious lazily, "worried?"
"I'll be fine." He shrugged traipsing behind the counter. Yami had sucked his sociability from him. He was drained with discontentment. There went life, there went light, there went Yugi's spark…
"Got a call from Hawkins," Grandpa prefaced.
"He and Rebecca good?" It was trivial. Yugi was exhausted. His head was throbbing.
"Very, need me to drop into Cairo for a month or two," the old man elaborated. "Trying to catch me the plane after next. I was thinking I ought to drop past the Ishtars' and get Yami's things for him. You want me to take them anything?"
"Huh?" Yugi lurched. "No, no thanks."
"I'll leave you kids plenty of cash on the card," Grandpa soothed distantly over the paper, "and I'll make sure I top it up. Just use the credit if I forget for a few days."
"Sure Grandpa," he permitted, "I know."
There went the last traces of his appetite and motivation. Eradicated, almost scared, Yugi leant back into his bedroom door and inhaling in a spasm was sure he felt traces of contentment, smugness, in the walls of the house like rats.
He fought the urge to fortify.
He would pass his exams. He would finish school. He would be normal. He would move out and travel and be alone on foreign shores in distant continents weak little tyrant be damned.
Yugi buried his face in his forearms. He didn't want to sleep. The house was a crypt without Grandpa. Today and yesterday had been deep abysses. Propped at his desk, there wasn't a ping of relief in the hours home within the house, so he lulled into his forearms. The tide of wanting to cry flowed and ebbed with the pounding in his head and the queasiness in his stomach. He wasn't going to last the weekend without causing a storm.
It was exhausting.
Yami had stolen something they were supposed to have. They were surviving, picking at each other, when life was supposed to be lush and thriving. Had they split the soul so badly it had become destructive to both of them? Would Yami gobble him up and fuse them back together to mend this? Would Yugi lose himself? Cease to exist? Would Grandpa have left two rats in a cage only to come home to find one of them fat and wild eyed on its lonesome after savage desperation?
Yugi wondered if he could succeed in amputating them from each other, severing the mind link to make them independent, if then this would stop. He doubted Yami would let him without breaking down the door. He doubted he could do it anyway. The agony of the last wound had mended rather than festering but it still pained him and, he supposed, must've pained Yami like a loss of oxygen. He'd failed last time and had very little damage to show for it but a brain splitting torture. The strand between them was heartily resilient, like influenza, and still the strength of the bond had yet to abate. So Yugi was shackled unappreciative of what Yami wanted.
He didn't very much care what Yami wanted right now after the senseless fear, pain and turmoil of the Pharaoh trying to force it out of Yugi without instruction or warning. The Pharaoh seemed to be morphing backwards to that core of wild, savage, destruction that had unfurled like a flower the first time Yugi had assembled the puzzle to let him rampage and murder through Domino. Yugi had dulled those memories but he remembered the hungry, snout snapping, greediness of that original state he'd uncovered. Yami had undergone a lot of civilizing since then and while it showed, made him cunning, subtle, he seemed to be slipping.
His eyes were still red.
This wasn't like the Spirit of the Ring who Ryou had attempted, unsuccessfully, to exorcize. Yami had a body and an urge. Hadn't Bakura said the Spirit of the Ring had dug the spikes into his chest in those early days when, in an attempt to pacify Bakura into submission, it had refused to let them be separated? Yami didn't seem very far off…something…the face it was an unknown variable which scared Yugi. He could deal with shadow realms, soul thieves, physical torture but not knowing was frightful.
Yami wouldn't physically hurt him. Never. The Pharaoh was still too bound by devotion to ever contemplate raising a hand to Yugi. It would break him to attempt it.
Apparently Yami had learnt to knock. Now he understood he wasn't wanted or simply because Yugi had forced so much unconscious shadow magic into the doorway?
"Yugi?" He murmured outside. "I got pizza. You hungry?"
"No thanks," he called lazily, he was too tired to be angry. Too upset to be hungry. He was going to waste away at this rate. "I'll have some later."
"Okay," Yami permitted, withdrawing. He hadn't tried to reach out terribly well for days. Then again Yugi had been avoiding his parenting.
Waiting, something struck Yugi, and rifling through his bag under the desk drew out his cell to dial as his socks scraped the carpet. He pressed it to his ear hard, inhaled, and knocked his knees together.
"Hello Bakura residence?" So prim, so polite, Yugi salivated for sanctuary.
"Hey Ryou," he tucked his hair behind his ear in a fidgeting attempt to stable himself as he quaked, "how's your night?"
"Hey Yugi!" The other chirped. "Good, you?"
"Not great," Yugi would've felt foul for asking this if he hadn't been so direly stubborn in his resistance. "Grandpa's buggered off again. Can…can I stay with you for a while?"
"Me?" Ryou laughed, bemused, "what about Yami? I would've thought you two would have fun with the house all to yourselves."
They used to when Yami was inside his head. Yami made the dark corners seem less imposing in the weak moments of the night. In those seconds of dread when the house felt foreign or Yugi wanted to sleep knowing there was another body in the house to watch over him it had helped to have the Spirit of the Puzzle watching over him. He had such confidence that nothing could touch him with the Pharaoh there. Even when Yugi's mind was a mystery to himself, when he blacked out, he had the sense he was protected. When he knew Yami was there, knew his name, he'd spent hours talking out loud to himself in the house to hear the Pharaoh answer inside his head or spot his phantom form leaning, slouching, into a counter.
"I…" Yugi could lie but he missed telling someone the truth safely. "I don't want to be alone with him. I don't like it."
"How come?" Ryou was surprised. Concern ebbed to a sort of empathetic gentleness that opened its arms welcomingly to any confession.
"I'm scared." Yugi hissed lowly, biting his lip, voice breaking.
"Of Yami?" Ryou tried to fathom but he was much quicker to understand, to comprehend, than Jou or Anzu would have ever been. He was staunchly serious, knowing, when he asked: "do you think he'd hurt you?"
"I…I don't know," he moaned. "Not physically, he wouldn't do that, but… I'm scared. I feel trapped."
Admitting it out loud floor, was devastating, crumbling at his world he'd sustained and built from a dream. He'd spent eight years trying to get the Puzzle. He'd made that wish and Yami had delivered.
"It's okay." Bakura assured firmly. "You can come stay with me. Don't worry about it. I've got everything, we can share books and toiletries and stuff. Just bring your stuff alright? Are you going to tell him?"
"No," Yugi was positive, "I'll text him and tell him I'm fine when I get to your place. Thank you, so much, are you sure this okay?"
"Don't fret Gorgeous," Ryou fussed, "let him kick up a stink. See all the fuck's I give. I may not have much shadow magic but no one's getting into my goddamn home unless I invite them."
He laughed, surprised by himself and by Ryou. The second host who was more like him than Marik would ever be and more understanding of his confinement than any of the others could be.
"Tomorrow then?" Bakura suggested.
"Yeah," Yugi nodded, he'd sleep, wake early, pack and sneak off again. "I'll see you then. Thanks Ryou you're amazing."
"Don't worry about it," he assuaged, "I'm your friend. I get it. I'm glad you called. The guys… well, you know. Anyway, it doesn't matter, you can stay here as long as you want. It's lonely up here and dad never uses his fucking bed so you can have one all to yourself."
"Does your dad ever come home?"
"I don't even know," he scoffed, "whatever. I'm happy to have you."
"Thanks," words could not condense it, the joy of being able to take lodge with Bakura where there was sanctuary and sanitation of the air. Bakura who got it, who didn't ask or tell Yugi he was being silly because he knew. Ryou, wonderful Ryou, who would be a delinquent with Yugi and show the Pharaoh little loyalty or lenience regardless of history because of his innate empathy, mistrust, for the wounds a Sennen Spirit could dole out.
"Night Yugi, sleep tight," he endeared.
1 I'm sticking pretty close to the canon really. Season Zero (manga/anime) and canon anime included.
2 I think the point of this is the same as when I wrote the original: grappling with some of the more interesting ideas of the whole 'Yami gets a body'subplot which is too often pretty trite and overlooked. So stay tuned for part two cause that's when things get really sticky!
3 Yeah, no, if Yami ever got a body it would be because someone fucked up the paperwork in the afterlife.
4 Grandpa Motou lets Yugi skip way too much school. I used to skip weeks of it too but, seriously, my mother didn't know I was off slaying dragons. Still I guess they're an adventurous family and there's something charming in that.
Anyway, as always, hope you enjoyed. The second chapter will be up in two days (Monday for those of you in Australia).