Well, I am officially a high school senior now. And think, I was just a freshman when I started fanfiction….Thanks for standing by me all this time, guys. I'm looking forward to what these next few years will bring.
I don't think I ever cried more in my entire life than I did that night. Not even when Atem died, or when my parents got divorced. Not when my sister started to go blind. Hell, probably not even on the night of the…well, you know. It was too painful, I couldn't even drive home after the appointment. Yugi had to do it. And I was on the floor, bawling like a baby, and Yugi was sitting next to me, running his hands through my hair. He didn't shed a tear. It was unnerving. Shouldn't he be crying too?
"It's not AIDs yet." The doctor said. "It is still in the HIV stage."
The doctor had pulled me aside into the spare room. The tears were already flooding down my face. I could see Yugi through a small window in the door. He was in the chair, looking at his hands. His eyes were bone dry.
"Is-is there anything you can do?"
He blinked. "There is no cure for HIV, I'm afraid. But there are treatments. Mister Motou is very lucky with his insurance provider. I suppose working with Seto Kaiba does have its advantages. But, they will only delay the progression. It won't stop."
I exhaled slowly. My chest felt tight. I rubbed my face with my hands. "How long until…it progresses?"
"I can't answer that, I'm afraid. Everyone is different. Some people it can take decades for the virus to turn into AIDS. Some people it never does. Or…"
"Or it could start tomorrow."
I whimpered. I actually whimpered. "What do we do?"
"Ideally, we would start treatment right away. I can write a prescription and he can begin it tonight. But I doubt that would do any good."
"Why? Wh-why wouldn't it?"
"Mister Wheeler, there is a reason I pulled you aside and not Mister Motou."
"He seems unaffected by the news. Look at him." I did. I cried more. That was not the Yugi I knew; stone cold, detached. "It appears to me that he died long ago."
I rubbed my face; I felt like an idiot for crying. "The prognosis?"
He sighed and avoided my eye contact. "In my professional opinion…ten years. Max."
"It's okay, Joey. It's okay."
The little brown bag on the coffee table said otherwise.
"Mai will be home soon."
Not for another few days, I thought. Her tournament had lasted longer than expected. She would be in the States for at least another few days. He wanted me to collect myself, to stop crying. It was probably making him uncomfortable. I wanted to stop crying, but I couldn't. Yugi wouldn't leave me, though. He wasn't that kind of person. I tried to stop crying, and got to the point where it was I was shivering. Yugi continued to play with my hair, occasionally running his hands down my back.
"It's okay," he said. "It'll be okay."
Video chatting with Anzu and Tristan was hard; we all lived in different time zones, so it was hard for us to get together to talk for a while. Anzu was in New York, Tristan was on a ship somewhere in the Atlantic (The Marines does that to you, apparently) and Mai was in California. But somehow we did it.
"So you guys," I said, "Yugi's birthday is coming up. I thought it would be a cool gift if we could all get together again for a few days." We hadn't met up since we all went our separate ways.
"It would be nice to get back to Domino and see you guys." Anzu agreed. "I think I could take a break; we don't have another big show for a few weeks."
"And I have enough vacation days saved up." Tristan quipped in. "Next time we port, I can see about catching a flight."
I smiled. "Thanks guys." Deep breath. "Now, I have to tell you something. And don't tell Yugi I told you, either because I promised I wouldn't." Because I'm a terrible friend.
"If you promised Yugi you wouldn't tell, why are you telling?" Anzu asked
I blinked. "It's important. Things have changed."
They all knew I was serious. They looked as grave as I felt. "See, about three years ago, I started getting calls from Hirutani…"
We were all bawling by the end of it. All four of us. We must have been a sight, I tell you. Four grown adults sobbing like infants. Anzu had balls of tissues around her. Tristan's eyes were red and blotchy; he tried to hide it, to suck it up like the big bad Marine he was, but he had a soft spot for Yugi he couldn't cover up. Mai, at one point, had to leave the room to collect herself.
"So—" Anzu sobbed, "what now? What do we do?"
"He has the treatment." I said, defeated. "The doc couldn't say much else. Says this type of thing doesn't follow any pattern. It just happens."
"We've been away too long." Tristan said. "Now we have to be there for his birthday."
"Please," I begged, "when you get out here, don't tell him I told you. I promised I wouldn't. Don't treat him any different either, especially you Anzu—we have to be strong."
Going to get the gang was easier than you would expect it to be. Yugi was out of school for the summer, but had begun to intern at KaibaCorp. more rigorously. Attendance was mandatory. Birthdays were no exception. So while Yugi was doing his thing, I picked everyone up at the airport. It was so nice seeing Anzu and Tristan after so long. Then we raced home and began set up. Tristan and I on decorations. Anzu and Mai on food. We worked hard; we wanted this to be the best birthday ever. After all, we weren't sure how many we would have left. Heh.
Yugi came home every day at six o seven precisely. So at six o two we all hid, prepared to surprise him. Mai and I managed to squeeze in behind the couch while Anzu and Tristan hide in corners. We were all afraid of making the tiniest of sounds, so much so, we all were holding our breath. Then, we heard the door knob turn and we all got ready. When the lights were switched on, we all jumped up and yelled.
Yugi was taken aback, startled, until he spotted Anzu and Tristan.
"Happy birthday!" Anzu screamed as she ran up to him and pulled him into a hug. His face flushed red and when I winked at him, seemed to turn a dark purple.
"A-Anzu." He said, finally allowing himself to smile. "Tristan."
"It's good to see you again, man." Tristan said, putting a hand on his shoulder.
"What are you guys doing here?"
Anzu finally released him from her grip. "It was Joey's idea; we hadn't seen you in so long, and we thought your birthday would be the perfect time to catch up!"
"Don't worry, dude." Tristan said. "We have everything to make this the best birthday you've ever had! Mai, how's dinner coming?"
"Dinner? Oh sh—"
Dinner consisted of slightly burned pizza, but none of us really minded. We were all too happy to just be together again. It was like old times. The topic somehow got onto the subject of Atem.
"I think he'd be proud of us all." Tristan had a way of speaking that made everyone who ever heard him confident that he knew what he was saying.
"I don't think he could ever not be." Anzu quipped in. "I mean, unless we all became one of those creeps we spent our high school careers fighting."
"And there's not a snowball's chance in hell, er, shadow realm, that'll happen!"
Light laughter. Yugi even smiled some.
"So," Mai said, standing up, "are we ready for cake and gifts?"
"You guys didn't have too—" Yugi began to object.
"Hey, not until we get Yugi to try some beer. You can't not have alcohol on your twenty-first birthday."
"I'm fine, really—"
"Here you go!" Mai placed the cake in front of him, candles already flickering. King of Games was written sloppily in purple frosting and on the corner was a supposed to be a frosted Kuriboh but it really looked like something my old cat would toss up. "Happy birthday to you," She began to sing and we all joined in. Yugi's face reddened and his brow furrowed and he kept trying to say something but we wouldn't let him.
And when we finished, he just stared at the cake, not moving, barely breathing. Anzu tried to coax him into blowing out the candles, making a wish, but he didn't respond.
I grew worried. "Yuge?"
Nothing. But his breathing grew more rapid. His shoulders began to shake.
He snapped. He looked at all of us. I can barely describe the way he looked at us. Hateful, I guess. And Yugi was never hateful. It scared all of us, I think. It scared me certainly.
"You know," he yelled, his voice cracking like he needed to cry but was trying everything he physically could to not cry, "just because I'm sick, doesn't mean you have to treat me like a baby!"
We were all stunned. Yugi never yelled at us like that. "Yugi—"
His head shot towards me. I swear his eyes were on fire. "You promised me you wouldn't tell them!"
"I know, but—"
"Yeah, but Yuge, things—"
I was silent. I had no words to say. He was right; I promised. He looked around at everyone else. "Party's over." He said. "I'm sorry I wasted your time."
He got up and went to his room, slamming the door. We looked at each other. Everyone was pretty flabbergasted.
"Well," Tristan said, "that could have gone better."
I glared at him.
"What? It could have."
"I'll talk to him." I said, sighing. "You guys should go. Hopefully we can finish this before you guys have to leave. Mai?"
"Don't worry; I can bunk with Anzu tonight. You and Yugi need time alone."
She bent down and blew out the candles, then placed the cake into the fridge.
They hurried and left. It wasn't until I was surrounded by only silence that I realized how angry I was. I stormed into Yugi's room, not even bothering to knock. He was curled under the covers.
"What the fuck is your problem?" He did nothing to acknowledge my presence. That made me even angrier. I walked over to his bed and ripped the covers off. He stared at me expressionless. "We're just trying to give you a good birthday, and you throw a hissy fit? Do you know what kind of planning it took to get them all out here? You lost your shit, man. There's no excuse for that."
"Funny." He said softly. "I would have thought finding out your best friend is a liar would qualify as a damn good excuse."
"How was I not supposed to tell them? You sure as hell weren't, and we can't not let them know!"
"What the hell am I supposed to tell them if you die?" I almost slipped up and said when.
"Oh so this is about you? I didn't realize you were the one with an STD. I didn't realize it was your choice you does and does not know."
"Goddamn it Yugi!" I screamed. "Stop acting like a victim!"
Yugi scoffed and got out of bed, craning his neck to look at me. "I'm acting like a victim? I saved your sorry ass and this is how you repay me?"
"I didn't ask you to come! I could've dealt with Hirutani myself!"
"Ha! We both know what a lie that is. It would've been three against one. You couldn't even defend yourself against his thugs and you think you could've handled him? If it weren't for me, you'd be dead!"
I clenched my fist. I noticed the orange bottle on his desk; the safety seal was still on. "Why haven't you been taken your medication?" I wasn't yelling anymore, but still made sure my voice was acidic.
He was silent.
"Do you want to die?"
Then it clicked. "My god." I said. "You want to die, don't you?"
"Joey." He wasn't yelling anymore.
"No, scratch that. You don't want to die. You've wanted to die. But you couldn't kill yourself. That would be a disgrace to Atem."
"That's why you followed me that night. You wanted him to kill you, didn't you?"
I threw my hands up in the air. "Fine. You want to play that game? I can play that game." I left the room and Yugi hurried after him.
I ignored him and went to the spare closet. I reached up on the top shelf and pulled a shoe box. I took the lid and held in my hands a silver revolver. I turned to face him. I threw the gun at his feet. "You want to die? Fine. Die. Just don't make me watch."
"Joey, please, you don't understand."
I hadn't realized I'd struck him until it was done and he was holding his lip. He peeled it back for a second and a bud of blood was visible. His eyes watered. I hadn't seen him cry in three years, but he was crying now. But at the moment, I didn't care.
"No." I said, too angry to fully comprehend what I'd done. It's terrifying to me now, to think there was a limit on my anger where I would hit my best friend. "No, no. Don't give me any of that crap. I don't want to hear it. Kill yourself. You and Atem can discuss it later and you both can talk about what a shitty friend I am."
"No. I don't want to hear anything from you anymore. Fuck you."
And I went to my bedroom, pulled the covers over my head, and surprisingly feel asleep right away.
I was in an alleyway, but the fog was too thick for me to see through more than a few inches. I was surrounded by two blocks of brick, so I was only able to walk forward or backward. But I walked forward. I didn't want to go backwards. I knew what was there. Was that better than what was forward, what I didn't know?
I know him then. His back at least. His hair blew in the wind, and he stood tall, erect.
"Atem!" I called, running towards him. "Atem!"
I came up to him, but he kept his back to me. "Hey." I said, out of breath. "Atem."
"Joey." He said, his voice low and demonic sounding. It scared me and I stepped back. He turned to face me and his eyes were blood red, scowling. "You are a liar, Joey."
He stepped forward, forcing me a step backward.
"A liar. You promised me you would take care of Aibou. You have failed my expectations beyond anything I could have imagined, but worse, you failed him."
"Atem—" He was scaring me. I knew that look; it was the look he gave to people he really, really hated.
"He depended on you, trusted you, and you failed him. You betrayed him." Another step forward. He was shorter than I was by several inches, but I couldn't help but feel that he was the one looking down on me.
"I couldn't lie to the gang." I stuttered. "They had a right to know!"
"But you promised Aibou you wouldn't tell anyone."
"Are irrelevant. You made a promise and you broke it. That makes you a liar twice. You lied to me and you lied to him. A liar is no better than a cheater."
"Do you know what I do to cheaters, Wheeler?"
The use of my last name….it said it all.
I cringed, stiffing my body.
I felt something grab my every limb and pull me down harsh. I was in a dark hole, with arms coming out of nowhere, grabbing me, groping me, and I felt like I was falling. And I kept falling. And falling. And I never hit any ground. And I knew I never would.
I woke up in a cold sweat, my heart pounding as I clutched my chest. My breaths were ragged. I looked at the clock. It had only been two hours. It all came back to me, everything I had said to Yugi. I thought I was going to cry. I jumped out of bed and ran across the hall to his room, not knocking.
"Yugi?" I called. "Yugi, I am so sorry." But he wasn't there. I checked the living room. He wasn't there either. My heart began to pound faster. The gun wasn't there either.
Having to call your fiancée at midnight explaining the biggest fuckup of your life is not a pleasant experience. I sort of downplayed the extent of our argument, but I had the whole gang searching for him. I prayed that we would find him alive. God I was so stupid. I had never meant for him….If he killed himself, I would never, ever, forgive myself.
My dream came back to me. If Atem wanted to send me to the Shadow Realm, I would not blame him. While running around the city, I got a phone call. I thought it would be from Yugi and I answered it excitedly. Instead, I heard Kaiba's nasty voice.
"Wheeler," he snapped, "I have something that belongs to you."
When I got to the Kaiba Mansion, it was he who let me in and not the usual butler. I figured he was at home, sleeping. Kaiba was pissed, and at once he had me slammed against a wall, pressing his hand into my neck.
"What the hell were you thinking?"
"Uh, I wasn't?"
"Mutt, even you have to have more brain cells than that! Do you know where I found him?"
I couldn't answer due to fact that Kaiba was slowly suffocating me.
"I found him in a puddle, sobbing, with a loaded gun in his hands asking me why you hated me. I'd like to know the answer to that too, Wheeler. What demon possessed you to tell him to kill himself?"
He released his grip on me, and I rubbed my neck. "With all due respect, Kaiba," I spat, "you have no right to talk shit. You don't know the whole story."
He scoffed. "Oh, I don't? Wheeler, I know everything. I know about the rape."
"Yeah, well, him just telling you doesn't count."
"You are dense. I've known!"
That caught me off guard.
Kaiba chuckled. "He didn't tell you that, did he?"
"Yugi wouldn't tell you about that. He made me promise I wouldn't tell anyone."
"He didn't need to tell me. You seem to forget: I grew up in an orphanage. I didn't just live with kids whose parents died. Several had to be taken from their homes because of abusive situations. People like that always have a certain look in their eyes. And when Yugi came into work that next day, I saw that look. I pretended not to notice for a while, but he began to withdraw more so I cornered him. Offered him therapy, to call the police. He of course refused all of it, but I've known."
I had no response.
"I have half a mind to report you to the police for assault."
"I didn't assault him!"
"So he gave himself a black eye and busted lip?"
I have never liked Kaiba; I respect him as a duelist. Believe me, having the opportunity to duel against Kaiba, even if you get your ass handed to you, is a great honor. But as a person, I hated him. As a person I had no respect for him. "Where is he?"
"Safe and away from you."
"I'm not playing this game, Kaiba! Where is he? I'm taking him home."
"He is home. After that stunt you pulled tonight, I'd die before I let him go back with you."
"Why'd you call me here then?"
"I figured it would be more fun to give you this news in person. You can go now."
"I'm talking to him."
"Like hell you are."
"Try and stop me, asshole." I pushed past him and ran up the large stairs. The mansion was huge; I didn't even know where I would begin looking. I craned my neck backwards, but did not see Kaiba chasing after me. He was still in the foyer, glaring at me with his icy eyes. I realized then that he wasn't going to stop me. His eyes shifted for a moment and I followed them to a door. I opened the door and sure enough, there was Yugi, in a bed that was too large for him. His eyes met mine and he blinked slowly. Kaiba was right; his lip was swollen and his right eye had purple around it. I felt guilty.
"Yugi?" I closed the door behind me.
"Go away." He turned so that his back was facing me.
I took a step forward. "Yugi…I am so sorry….I-I can't express you to how sorry I am….I sh-shouldn't have said any of that." I swallowed. "I hit you….I'm so sorry."
He didn't respond, just pulled his knees closer to his chest.
"I'll never be able to make it up to you…" My throat was dry. "I'd like to try, though."
"Come home with me." I ignored him. "Everyone is so worried. Come on, let's go home and we'll work this out together." I said this all as I walked around the bed so that we were facing each other again. He avoided eye contact.
"I can't. Not unless you're coming with me."
"Don't you understand?" He whispered, his voice cracking. "I don't want you; go away, leave me alone."
"What do you want then? Tell me Yugi, I promise no matter what it is, I'll get it."
He was sobbing quietly. "I want Yami." His body was wracked, tears streaming down his face. He was crying. Crying. I hadn't seen him cry in so long, it was a bit of relief.
Honestly, it was the answer I should've expected, though the term of endearment threw me off guard for a moment. But hearing him say it, made me feel heavy. Like something was trying to pull me down. The dream. My promise to Atem. My pinkie promise to Yugi. The cold plastic of the hospital chair. My nose stung. My eyes watered. I couldn't do this. I wasn't strong enough. "I want him too." I said, realizing how true that was. Atem needed to go the Afterlife, though; that was where he belonged. He lived his life; he needed to die But….Atem was the only one who could ever protect Yugi; he was the only one who would lay down his life for Yugi. Yugi wanted Atem; not me. Somewhere I knew that if he were ever given the choice, he would pick Atem over me every time. He would say that he couldn't pick, but deep down, somewhere in his soul, that longing for Atem would be greater than his longing for me. Atem didn't break his promises. Atem was able to comfort him in ways I could never. Atem was his greatest company; he was never alone when he was with Atem. How could I ever compete with that?
The message was clear. I walked and left the room. Kaiba was waiting outside for me, his arms crossed.
"My on-call doctor came by earlier." He said. "He put him on a 24 hour suicide watch. If you noticed, there were no pillow cases, or large furniture. The windows were bolted shut."
"I get it. I fucked up."
"No, you didn't just fuck up. What you did was worse than that. Those scars are never going to heal."
I snorted and leaned against the door. "What does it matter? He's going to die anyways. He won't take his medication. If there's an accident of some sort, he won't do anything to save himself."
"I'll worry about that."
My pride was one thing I always held close to me. I didn't have a lot of things, but I did have my pride. Yugi, though…was worth it. "Take care of him."
Kaiba nodded stiffly.
"I'm sorry." Mai said, holding my hands. "I know this is hard for you, but staying in this ratty old place alone isn't going to help any, sweetie."
"Kaiba won't let me anywhere near him. It's so aggravating! Of all the people in the world, he would pick Kaiba over me?"
"Maybe it's for the best? Kaiba has the resources to better take care of him."
"Mai, he doesn't want to be taken care of. He wants to die."
She leaned over and kissed my cheek. "Then let him die, hon. I've seen him and I think the doctor's right; he died a long time ago. Some things aren't meant to be lived through."
"I don't know what to do." I moaned. "He's my best friend. I can't let him kill himself."
"Joey, Yugi is the most selfless person I know. He's always putting others before himself, swallowing his feelings so he can focus on someone else's. He killed his best friend because it was the right thing to do! We both know he didn't want to do it, but he did it still, because it needed to be done; because it was what Atem wanted. Because he knew it would make Atem happy, even if it made him feel desolate. He suffered so his friend could prosper. Isn't time someone puts him first for once in his life?"
I was speechless. She was right. She was so right.
She squeezed my hands. "Don't you think it's time you moved out of this place? We're going to be married soon. We should start moving in together."
The ring on my finger. Another promise I had made. To love and cherish her forever and ever. Could I keep that promise? I loved Mai with all of my heart, all of it. But I loved Yugi with all of my heart too. And I couldn't keep any of the promises I made him. But…this wedding. It was what I really wanted. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this woman. This woman, whom I would gladly lay down my life for.
"You think Yugi will still be the best man?"
She bit her lip and squeezed my hand. "I think so. You know Yugi. He can't hold a grudge. The wedding's still a few months away. Just give him time to cool down. He'll forgive you; he always does."
"Don't remind me."
The wedding went off without a hitch. I stood at the alter with Yugi by my side. That was awkward; Yugi and I hadn't spoken much since his birthday, Kaiba made sure of that. We didn't talk about that night, about his non-confession confession that he was suicidal. There were a lot of things we didn't talk about. Things we needed to talk about, but we pushed under the rug. But he was there for my wedding and I couldn't ask for anything more. She walked down the aisle and we said our vows. It was pretty traditional, and nothing unusual happened. The reception was a small little party in the Kaiba mansion. I'm still not completely sure how that happened, but I think Yugi had something to do with it. Mai and I had our first dance, we cut the cake, and everyone had a good time.
It wasn't till a few hours in I noticed Yugi had seemingly vanished. At first I thought perhaps he had gone to bed, but then realized there was no way he would be able to sleep with all the noise in the house. Later I went in search of a bathroom, and heard retching. I waited outside the door, but whoever was in there sounded like they couldn't breathe. I knocked on the door. There was only one person who could be in there.
"Yugi? Are you okay?"
The noises from behind the door stopped. I grew worried and pressed my ear against the wood, searching for any signs of life.
The door opened, suddenly, and I had to quickly lean back to avoid face planting with Yugi's shoes. I caught sight of him. He looked awful. He had dark circles under his eyes, which were watery, and his nose and ears were a bright red.
"Hey." I said, trying to sound as calm as I could, like I hadn't been sort-of-spying-but-not-really-spying. "Are-are you okay?"
"Uh, yeah. I'm good." His voice was hoarse.
"You sure? You sound kind of sick."
"It's nothing. I don't think the food quite agrees with me, that's all. I'm fine, don't worry." He gave me one of his fake smiles that was never, ever very convincing to begin with.
"You sure? Is there anything I can get you?"
"Joey, this is your day. Don't let me ruin it for you." He tried to squeeze past me.
"You're not ruining it. Really. I'm so glad you still were my best man, after what happened, you have no idea how much it means to me."
"I would never let a dumb argument get between our friendship."
"I don't think I would consider it a little argument—"
"Joey, don't worry. I'm fine. Go, it's your wedding. Have fun. Dance with your wife. Don't let me ruin it for you." He managed to slip past me, disappearing into the crowd.
I suppose Kaiba was managing to make him take his medicine one way or the other. But he looked sicker than he did before we knew about it. Wasn't the medicine supposed to make him better? Why did it make him look like walking dead?
I wasn't sure. I did know I wasn't ever going to get those answers though. And I had to just accept that.
The last few years there was this reoccurring nightmare I kept having. In this nightmare, Yugi and I were both back in that warehouse and Hirutani was there and things went as they did in real life, only this time, when Hirutani was done, he didn't leave. Instead, he leaned down with his mouth pressed against Yugi's ear, and even though he whispered it, I could hear it crystal clear.
"Always have to be the hero, don't you?" And then he stood up and pulled a gun out of nowhere and he shot Yugi point blank in the head, killing him. Each time I would always wake up with a start, my heart pounding, sometimes screaming. Most times I had to remind myself that it was always a dream, that Yugi was still alive, Hirutani hadn't killed him. Was it better though? Sometimes I couldn't help but think everything would have better if Hirutani had killed Yugi.
But then when I always tried to go back to sleep, I couldn't help but replay that one line of dialogue over and over again in my head.
Always have to be the hero, don't you?
To this day, I'm still not sure if Hirutani actually said that, or if it was just something my twisted mind made up.
Grandpa died. It wasn't a surprise, not really. The man was eighty years old with poor eye sight, a bad back, and dementia. We had been preparing for a long time. But still, you can never fully prepare for something like that. Sure, he died peacefully in his sleep, painlessly. But when you're the guy who finds him dead, it's scary. Really scary.
The funeral was….uneventful. Really. It was no different than a regular funeral. It was a sunny day, actually. Bright blue sky, birds chirping everywhere. Yugi was… okay considering the circumstances. He didn't look any better than he did at the wedding, but he didn't look any worse. Maybe a little more tired, but his last living relative had just died, so I understood. He greeted everyone with a sad smile, thanked them for coming, for their condolences. The funeral party consisted mainly of neighbors I had never met and frequent flyers, children who spent the majority of their allowance on booster packs. It still never ceased to amaze me just how much impact one person can have on so many lives. I should have known better, especially considering the people I hung out with at the time. But that was different. Atem had been different, and even though Grandpa was the closest thing to a father I ever had, he was still just a sickly, widowed shop owner who used his grandson's reputation to get by at the end of each month.
He didn't know how sick Yugi was… Yugi didn't want to tell him, didn't want him to worry. After his visits, Grandpa used to come to me and ask what was wrong with Yugi, why did he look so tired, so skinny? I simply told him it was stress; depression. See, I didn't lie, technically. I just didn't tell the whole truth…
After the service, after people began to leave I walked up to Yugi who was alone for the first time that afternoon.
"Hey." I said.
"Hey." He responded back. Silence fell then and we both looked at our feet awkwardly.
I was cut off as he circled his arms around me, burying his face into the crook of my neck. His body was lost to tremors, shaking violently.
At first I didn't know what to do. It was an unexpected gesture. But soon, I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him closer. "It's okay." I whispered, rubbing circles into his back. "It's okay, it'll be all right."
He pulled back, sniveling. His eyes were watery, but no tears fell. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small silver key and held it out. "Here," He said.
I took it cautiously. "What is—"
"He wanted you to have it. It says so in his will. I know this should be more formal, there's still the paper work to fill out and the attorney to meet, but you should have it. I want you have to it."
"Yugi, what are you talking about?"
"The Game Shop. It's yours now."
I was speechless; dumbfounded. "Yuge, I can't take this. He was your grandfather, the shop belongs to you."
"Joey, I consider you my brother. And Grandpa considered you his grandson. You're family. He wanted you to have it. So take it."
"Yugi, I can't—"
He wrapped my fingers around the small key, holding my hand so gently and delicately. "Take it."
I was speechless. I didn't know what to say. The fact that Grandpa wanted me to have the shop, his life's work…I can't describe how that felt. It was amazing. So amazing. And, Yugi wanted me to have it too. I couldn't let him down; disappoint him again.
"Thank you." I eventually mumbled, feeling tears stinging at my eyes.
He smiled shyly at me.
I know it may not seem like it, but this story does have a point. I'm getting to it. Soon enough, I'll be out of your hair. My promises to Yugi, our relationship those last few months, were more fragile than glass. Glass could be repaired if it was broken. But the pieces to my relationship with Yugi shattered smaller making it impossible to put back together perfectly.
The night it really broke…It was just a few months after Grandpa's funeral. I was with him in the Kaiba Mansion. Kaiba didn't seem to really care if I hung out with Yugi at his place. Or maybe he did but he just remained silent for Yugi's sake. It doesn't really matter anymore. It hasn't mattered.
He was….so thin and gray. We were playing a game of cards and he was kicking my ass as usual. It was fun, until he went into a violent coughing fit. He could barely breathe and was curled up into a ball, his hands over his mouth. I was by his side, trying to calm him down and after a few minutes, the coughing subsided. He shakily removed his hands from his mouth and my stomach churned when I saw the cherry of blood in his palms.
He was wheezing and shivering, even though the room was at a modest temperature. That, I think was the final straw.
"Stay here." I told him. "I'll get you some water."
For once he didn't object to my help. I went into the kitchen and grabbed onto the counter, feeling the urge to smash my head against the cabinets. I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't see him in pain anymore. I couldn't live my life knowing he was suffering, knowing I had disappointed Atem and betrayed Yugi.
Mai's words echoed in my head from that night months ago.
He killed his best friend because it was the right thing to do!
He suffered so his friend could prosper.
Isn't it time someone puts him first for once in his life?
It was. I was going to do it. For once in my life, I was going to be selfless, like Yugi. I fished a glass out of the cabinet and filled it with water. But I also fished out a bottle of sleeping pills and crushed them in my palms. I stared at the white powder for what felt like eternity. Then I stirred it into the water. I went back into the living room and gave my poison to him.
"Thank you." He muttered, his voice hoarse.
I said nothing. I watched as he downed the whole thing. It was only a matter of moments now. I sat down. "Want to finish playing?" I wanted him to be happy and smiling when he left. I tried not to cry. He trusted me and I was killing him. But he was going to die anyways, right? If I waited around he would just die painfully and sick. At least this way he could die with his dignity.
"Sure." He said. He shuffled the cards and dealt them.
It would be easy to blame Hirutani for everything that happened. But, I can't. Not fully. I was the one who drug Yugi into that mess with me. He gave me chance after chance to call the police instead, but I didn't listen and he got hurt because of my stubbornness. Hirutani may have been the one to hurt him, to make him sick, but it was my fault.
I tried not to look him in the eye. I didn't want to see the light in his eyes fade away.
After about ten minutes, he began to moan and sway.
"Are you okay?"
"Just tired." He yawned.
"Why don't we get you to bed then?" I stood up and helped him to his feet. He walked to his room where he began to lean on me. I got him to his bed, but by then he was more than halfway gone. I could smell it.
"Yugi," I said, swallowing my tears, "remember when we were on Pegasus' boat and Weevil threw your Exodia cards over the edge? I jumped off to get them and you were there right after me. It was dark and the waves were rough; I got pulled under by the current. But because you were there you saved me."
He smiled softly at me the light in his eyes fading away. "Of course. I could never forget that. Then later you saved me from drowning that night in Battle City when Marik….."
"No, you saved me." I said, holding onto his hand. "You helped me break free from Marik's mind control."
"You…coulda done that on….your own….didn' need me…."
My tears were threatening to fall. I had to use all of my will power to hold them back. I didn't want the last thing he saw to be my crying. "Yes I did, Yugi."
He made no reply. I could see his eyes becoming dimmer.
"I just want you to know Yugi," I stammered, hoping to say it fast enough for him to hear it, "one day, I'm going save you like you've saved me so many times. I promise."
He didn't know that day was then. But that was okay. He didn't need to.
"But Joey…you already have…."
"And then he closed his eyes and never opened them again. I left then, crying. I don't regret it though. I do regret that it was Mokuba who found him several hours later. Poor kid had enough go wrong in his life he didn't need that too. But, what's done is done. His funeral was probably more uneventful than Grandpa's. Because he was so sick, nobody ever suspected he died of anything else. But, I fulfilled my promise to Atem. I protected Yugi for once in my life."
I look up at the small slit in the wall at the man behind it. All I can see are his eyes, but they are wide and terrified. Poor kid, I think. He probably wasn't expecting any confessions this wild.
"Sir—" He stammers, tripping over syllables. He obviously hasn't been doing this long. He doesn't look older than thirty, at the oldest. I rub at my knees in the meantime. The arthritis was bad, especially when I sat down for a long time like I had been. Getting old stinks, let me tell you. "Sir, you must go to the authorities. You have to turn yourself in!"
"Why? Murder is a sin!"
"But I didn't murder him. Besides, it won't make a difference now. That was sixty years ago and I'm an old man. I can feel my time coming. You know I haven't told this story to anyone. Not the friends Yugi and I shared, not Kaiba. Hell, not even my own wife knows the truth. But I know I'm going to die soon. I wanted someone to know the truth."
"It's never too late for redemption sir." The young priest pleaded. "God forgives you, but you must prove your sorrow for this sin."
I couldn't help but snort. "I don't need God's forgiveness. All I need is Yugi's. And I know when I die and I get to see him again, I'll have it."
He went quiet for a moment. "Why are you telling me this then? Out of everybody in the world you could confess too, why me? A poor stranger?"
I smiled as I continued to rub at my knees and wrists. "I saw you the other day after Mass getting into your car. A priest with a duel disk is a sight I don't think I'd ever seen before."
"I-….wait. Your friend was Yugi Motou?"
"Yeah." I smiled. Even after all these years, Yugi was still making people's lives better; making them smile, inspiring them. This priest was a fan of Yugi's even though he had been dead for half a century now.
"I always thought he committed suicide."
He did, I said to myself only. I may have killed his body but he died a long time before that. "Yugi would never kill himself. He wasn't that kind of person." I stood. "Thank you for listening. It feels good to talk about this. Like a weight has been taken off my chest."
"Thank you for that…intriguing story." He replied.
I left the church and it was nighttime. The sky was dark and filled with stars. I took the time to crane my neck back up and look at them. I knew Yugi forgave for me what I did. Part of me was sure that he was even happy with what I did. He didn't have to suffer anymore.
It may have taken longer than I thought it would, and may have consisted of some actions I never thought I would have to take, but in the end, I did protect Yugi just like I promised Atem I would.
And I knew with every ounce of my being that the both of them were up there, smiling at me, waiting for my time to go and we could all be together once again.
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