Title: Sometimes I...
Pairings: Yuugi/Yami no Yuugi
Warnings: None, but I'm cutting it to save your friends pages.
June 4th. For the longest time, I'd never really thought too much about my birthday. To be honest, it wasn't for the longest time that it mattered to more than just my mother, my grandfather and my close friend, Anzu. Everything changed the day I put together that puzzle. I remember my grandfather letting me try my hand at solving it on a whim. I remember clearly him telling me I could try, but that the puzzle was beyond mortal comprehension, that it wouldn't be solved.
For the longest time, I believed him, as no matter what route I took, no matter how many pieces of paper I went through drawing diagrams of the pieces and how they would fit together, it was as if the puzzle refused to be solved. As if the pieces changed over night.
It took me eight years. I remember a few people making fun of me when they heard how long it'd taken, but considering what I know now about the puzzle, I'm not surprised in the slightest it took as long as it did.
At any rate, it's my birthday. I've been bonded to the spirit of the ancient Pharaoh who came from the puzzle for over two years now. At first, he didn't know who or what he was, but protected me regardless. In a way, he felt he was me... but now, my mind is quieter. Sometimes he spends hours in complete silence. We share everything; if he's forcefully blocking his thoughts from me, I can only assume it's because he's afraid he'll upset me.
...he's been upsetting the both of us lately by saying nothing when I know he's hurting inside.
On the subway, I look through the window to the city passing in bright neon blurs of light. I feel him stir, feel the change as silently, he takes hold of my body, pushing me gently into ethereal existence so I can remain by his side. It's been a while since he's done that and, though I don't mind that he's pushed me to the side, the look on his face as he watches the city pass feels like someone's taken hold of my heart and has begun to squeeze it. I feel my throat tighten.
I want to ask him to talk to me, but I don't have the words. The two of us sit in silence, watching the city pass. He looks down, and then suddenly, I am looking at the floor. He's relinquished control. My mind is silent. He's not talking to me.
June 4th used to mean something to me in the sense that Jounouchi, Honda and Anzu would surprise me with something. We might go to the arcade where I would proceed to beat anyone who challenged me. We might go to the movies. We might just walk, talk and laugh together, feeling the warmth of the noon sun turn to cool as it set, where we'd then enjoy the colours of dusk.
My stop arrives. I drag myself to my feet and begin to head to my destination. I want to ask him what's wrong, though doing so is pointless.
We both know why there is silence. What we lack is a means to end it.
...in a way, mentioning endings at all is what's at the root of this crushing silence.
Finally, I arrive, walking quickly and pulling my jacket close despite the warmth of the summer evening. The bars are cool as I grip them, looking out over the water from the edge of the view-point. The sea. A set of observation binoculars stood next to me, the eyes blackened with tar and old chewing gum as part of some kid's prank. The coin slot was jammed with a foreign coin too big to fit. It didn't matter. The water lay ahead, the waves reflecting briefly in the light of the setting sun.
It was not altogether too late outside, and still rather warm. The colours in the sky were brilliant reds, purples and blues. I feel my throat tighten again, my eyes stinging as I grip the bars.
Happy Birthday to me... Happy Birthday to me...~
And then it happens. A sob, hoarse and pathetic, coughs its way out of my control and ruins my attempts at keeping my cool. I sink to one knee, still clutching at the chipped white paint-covered metal bars that hold fast against the elements. I sob freely, unable to stop. It was my birthday. I'd been 18 for the entire day and yet...
I wished I could have more time. The faster time marched on, the less time we would have...
A voice in my head stops my train of thought immediately, a warm, confident voice.
Why are you crying, partner?
At first, a flutter of happiness passes through me as the silence between us is finally broken.... but it is only followed with a horrible, painful anger.
Sending my thoughts to him just doesn't seem enough at this point, so, gripping the bars, I pull myself to my feet, shouting out over the water.
"Why won't you talk to me, other me? Why won't you tell me what's bothering you? You call me your partner, but you've been so quiet..."
There is a pause. I'm not surprised, really. A pause more than likely meant the silence between us would return... but then he surprises me.
Partner, it's your birthday. I'm happy for you.
"You haven't spoken to me at all today. At all. Over and over, I see you sneaking glimpses of the world through my eyes. I don't say anything about it, but I'm worried! I'm worried, other me! Jounouchi and Honda and Anzu came over today to play and it was like you didn't even care! You're happy for me now? What about when we were... when we were..."
I can't continue. My throat is too tight.
They were there for you, partner. Not me. It is not my birthday. It is not my day to shine. Today was for you--
"I never asked for it to be all about me! I never asked for any of this! I never asked for stolen souls and mystical puzzles and Pharaohs and ancient evils!"
Seems I've found my voice. I don't know why I'm pouring out something this hurtful.
"And now that it's here, I have to just give everything up eventually!? As if it was just destiny for me to be a part of your grand journey!?"
I feel my heart breaking, more tears rushing from my eyes. The wind has kicked up a little. I pull my jacket close, hugging myself... I feel like I'm the only one who can hug me sometimes. No one should have to be equipped to deal with the maelstrom that my life has become. At this point, he materializes next to me, not looking at me, but looking out over the water.
"Stop calling me that." My words are choked and bitter. I don't like sounding like this. I never have... but as much as I don't like how I sound, I like it even less when he tries to sweep his pain under the rug, as if everything's alright, as if it's all a bad dream that will go away...
"Yuugi. My thoughts dwell on my identity and my inevitable departure, but I do not wish to trouble you by allowing you to hear those thoughts. If you are constantly reminded that I---"
"But I AM constantly reminded! I've never stopped thinking about it! Not since I found out about the tablet in the museum! Not since... not since..."
My hands are clenched around the white bars so tightly it feels as if they're going numb. Maybe they are. I don't care.
"I... I sometimes..."
I can't. I can't finish that thought. Don't let me finish that thought. Please.
I sometimes wish I'd never met you at all.
He staggers quite visibly, his eyes widening, though he still refuses to look at me. Instead, he bows his head slightly, the expression on his face uncharacteristically soft. I look at him. I do not stop looking at him. In a way, I've always been watching him... watching him walk away from me.
"Yuugi, I wish I hadn't brought this pain into your life..."
"I wish that too! I wish for a lot of things! I wish I didn't have this pain in my heart each time you felt misery or doubt! I wish it wasn't my life and my family that ends up at risk because of something I'm only a part of!"
God, why can't I stop? I'm hurting him. I'm killing him... but that soft, broken expression... that regal posture slumping in defeat... it only makes my rage burn harder.
"I wish you would apologize for ruining my life!!"
My screams of anger, betrayal and hurt echo over the water and the surrounding area. There is no one around, but even if there were, I would have continued to scream.
His eyes widen as he suddenly turns, facing me completely. His face is such a mask of pain that I can't decide what he feels more of, sadness or shock... or possibly anger as well.
But he stops. Of course he stops. He probably didn't have any way to voice what he was thinking...
You never know how to talk to me. Is it because you're a King?
Why am I being so cruel? I hate this. I hate this. This isn't me. I'm not this cruel. I'm so sorry, other me...
"Yuugi, I never wanted you to hurt like this... when you completed the puzzle, I felt light for the first time in millennia... piercing the darkness that was all I'd ever known. Immediately, my empty mind was filled with your existence, your thoughts, your worries, your hopes... your dreams... your wishes. Such strong feelings, so unabashedly seeking solace in the puzzle you'd completed, worked deep into me, bonding me to you. I became you, in a way... and I protected you, though, looking back, I did not protect you properly..."
His eyes are hard to look at right now. It's like he's trying to smile, but his eyes betray everything.
"When I finally realized I was not you, Yuugi, my doubts began. I didn't know what I was, or if I was even a person. I simply existed within the puzzle and within your mind. Stairs began to appear in my soul room every time I had an unanswerable question... and I have many more to replace those that are answered."
He looks back out over the sea. I don't think he's done, nor do I have a means to apologize for the knives I've plunged into his heart. I remain silent... but I want him to apologize. I want him to apologize and to keep apologizing. I want him to wail and scream and cry and to show some form of emotion other than his damned pokerface... I want him to apologize for everything.
"I cannot apologize for everything, Yuugi... but I can apologize for hurting you in any way... for the times when I controlled you without your knowledge... for the times when my bravado endangered your family and friends. But... Yuugi, I was---I am honoured to be... so intimately involved with your life. To be alive at all, even through you... is more than I could have ever wished for. I enjoyed it. Everything. The pain, the pleasure... everything."
It's then that I notice he's crying. His voice barely betrays it at all, but I can see him trembling, fighting it with everything he has. His pride... his pride was still...
"Yuugi, I'm sorry."
Wait. What was he doing?
"I'm sorry for this. I'm sorry for my pride. I can hear your thoughts. I can feel your guilt. I know you're angry and it's hurting me, and it hurts more to know a part of you wants to see me fall..."
"Other me, I---"
"Yuugi, sometimes I----sometimes I wish I could stay with you. So I wouldn't be hurting you so badly. I have no memory of who I was, but I have memories with you, with your friends, with your family. Sometimes, when I feel the wretched claws of sorrow and doubt cloud my mind from what I need to do, I desperately want to stay with you... but you know that I cannot."
His face is so... his tears...
"Yuugi, if there was any other way to do what needs to be done that didn't involve giving up what I've created with you, I would take it. I love you and your friends. I love being able to live, even partially, through you. I love feeling the warmth of the sun, the taste of watermelon on summer evenings, the sound of laughter, the tears and the heartache and---everything! Everything about life is so utterly precious!"
I've never seen him this way before. For a moment, I simply stand dumbfounded, watching him cry softly, feeling his heart desperately trying to repair the cracks... to replace his confidant mask...
But it's slipped. I've seen him now.
I wait until he seems to have calmed down, his breath slow, steady aside from a sniff hear and there. Finally, we are standing in silence once more, watching the water. The lamp-light overhead kicks in as the night creeps slowly forward, washing us in a pale-orange glow.
"Other me... I... those things I said, I---"
"It's alright. You were angry. Understand, Yuugi, that if even a part of what you said was true, and I believe that much of it actually was, that it is not something I do not already know. I have known for a long time of your doubt, your sadness, and your anger. I know that you do not want me to leave and at the same time, are doing everything in your power to help get me to go."
Looking directly into his eyes like this hurts. Can I withstand that gaze? His eyes are so fierce... and yet, soft. Like some kind of wild thing, finally tamed.
"Yuugi, you and I are two sides of the same coin. I taught you confidence, you've taught me kindness. We've learned from one another. You are my partner. Even after I am gone, Yuugi, I will remain in your heart. You will not forget me, and thus, I will never leave you."
If only it were that simple. I look to my feet as if they would offer me advice.
"Yuugi... for now, we are together. For now, we are partners. For now, we can enjoy the sunset and talk to one another about anything. I know that I am... somewhat reserved... but if you need me to, I will do my best to speak to you about anything."
I look at him again.
"You have to talk to me about things that bother you. If you're hurting, I want to know why, not just feel your pain. If you're sad, I want to share your burden, not just feel your tears on my cheeks after you've cried. If we're partners, we need to be closer than that!"
He smiled. An earnest smile.
"Of course, partner."
And now I'm smiling. Crying and smiling.
"...I'm an idiot, other me."
A pause. He was musing about how to reply, more than likely.
"Perhaps we're both idiots... but we can be honest idiots as well."
I laugh. It feels good to remember how.
"Partner, can you reach into your back pocket?"
I blink. It's an odd request, but I do as he tells me, and feel something in my pocket. It's a photo of me. Well, to most people it would look like a photo of me... I can tell from the posture and the lack of a smile in the first of the four that it's not me at all.
"I tried to think about what you might want for your birthday that didn't involve the others. I wanted it to be something that was especially meaningful..."
A row of four pictures taken in a photo-booth may not have seemed that important... the first photo was a mess of hair and flailing arms, as if an appropriate pose hadn't been found in time. The second was too close, as if I didn't know quite exactly where to stand. The third picture had caught me blinking...
...and in the fourth picture, I was standing with my hand up, the back showing to the camera.
My heart caught in my throat. Of course, it wasn't me in the photos at all. It was him. It was all him...
"You idiot..." I sob, blinking furiously to keep from crying all over again, but it's no good.
Written across the picture in handwriting much too neat to be my own, yet obviously written with my hand, are the words,
"Someday in the future, we will be separated. There will be painful and lonely times, assuredly. Let this mark serve as a reminder that we will never forget our adventures."
I look up into his eyes again. He is smiling a very warm smile now, which soon becomes a grin when he sees he's making me smile too.
"Happy Birthday, Mutou Yuugi. Happy Birthday to you."