zodiacal_light: That is not dead which can eternal lie; and with strange aeons even death may die. (even death may die)
Yami was brooding again, Yugi noted.

I'm fine, aibou, came an exasperated thought. Stop being such a worrywart.

I am
not a worrywart! Yami!

A chuckle was his only reply.

I'm just... I just want to make sure you're ok, Yugi replied weakly, realizing he really was worrying.

Yami laughed again. I'm ok. I'm ... adrift, a little, but ok.

Yugi thought he knew what Yami meant. They'd spent weeks after learning the truth about Yami struggling to fulfill Yami's destiny, fighting to regain his memories, only to have the whole thing snatched away unexpectedly.

The whole thing had been oddly anticlimactic, for such a drastic action.

Yami had won the tournament by default: Malik was too unhinged to continue, Seto had pocketed his deck and refused to touch it again, and Jounouchi had been too nervous to duel at his best for the title. Malik's victims had woken, but Malik himself had lapsed into a kind of fugue state, staring at the scenery with wild eyes and muttering irritably to himself.

Yugi wondered what had happened to Malik. Isis had just sort of stared at her brother in shock, and it had been Rishid who had staggered up, just out of a coma, to bundle him off downstairs. The last he'd heard, they were heading back to Egypt.

The window opened behind him.

Neither boy nor spirit had any chance to react before a knife was pressed to their throat, held there by a very familiar arm. "Ryou?" Yugi stammered, trying not to swallow.

Bakura, Yami hissed, battering helplessly at the Puzzle walls. If they switched out now, the larger Yami would get their neck slit.

"You lost a God card," Bakura breathed, and his voice didn't sound like either Ryou's or Bakura's.

...That's not Bakura, Yami.

I noticed.


"Bakura?" Yugi asked, voice wavering.

'Bakura' cackled. "You lost a God card. Hehe, isn't that wonderful. All that work, and nothing to show for it." And there was a bitter twist to those words that had them both wondering if the spirit was really talking about them.

"You were supposed to come and get your memory back, Pharaoh," the spirit breathed. "And then I would have had you. And defeated you, again, inside the memory of when I took your life the first time." The arm around Yugi's neck tightened, the blade biting into his skin. "And then I'd finally be free of this miserable Ring!"

And boy, whatever was holding them sounded really unhinged. Why can't I attract sane villains? Yugi moaned.

Is there any such thing? Yami asked, amused in spite of himself.

"But I can just kill you. I wonder what that will do to the Pharaoh," the thing mused. His arm tensed-

Yugi steeled himself-

-And a hand clamped down on the blade, bruising Yugi's throat badly as strong fingers wedged past his windpipe.

'Bakura' grunted in surprise and spun, still hanging on to Yugi, to face Seto.

But the knife was no longer at Yugi's throat, and so Yami came out to play.

He reached out with his magic to the Ring, intent on purging the spirits in there entirely.

Not Bakura, Yugi said, and Yami paused. I know you don't like him, but not Bakura. Just that evil parasite.

…Fine.


But Yami could only sense one spirit in the Ring. He readied himself to throw it out anyway - Bakura be damned - when the thing snatched the knife back and swung wildly at Seto.

And then Yami sensed a fissure, as something small and fragile pulled back from the seething mass of evil tainting the Ring. It was small, but bright, like a thin line of light in a pitch-black room.

And that something tiny was reaching back to him. Help me, came a thin voice, and Yami had never expected Bakura to ever be capable of pleading.

There was a faint echo from the Puzzle, and Yami realized what Bakura had done. And what he had to do.

He grabbed for that fragmented soul with all his magic and pulled.

With a metaphysical pop, Bakura slipped fully into the fragment he'd left in the Puzzle, leaving nothing but the evil spirit in the Ring. The thing snarled, but Seto, sharp like always, had noticed the change and knocked Ryou upside the head with the hilt of his own knife, dropping him where he stood.

Yami could think of only one thing to say. "I didn't know you got the knife away from him."

Seto smirked, twirling said blade briefly between his fingers before dropping it in his coat pocket.

Bloody fucking hell, I'm stuck here with the Pharaoh, hissed Bakura in the back of Yami's mind.

Yugi giggled.

Yami dragged the Ring from around Ryou's neck, and felt his new guest bare his teeth.

Melt it, Bakura said. It's useless now. For anything good, anyways.

Yami nodded, and handed it over to Seto, who pulled out a small tool from his pocket and started cutting it into pieces.

Ryou stirred, and Bakura bristled protectively, reaching out with his mind in a gesture Yami recognized but had never associated with the thief. Frustrated at the absent connection, Bakura snarled.

And something in the Puzzle gave, and the Puzzle fell to pieces.

Bakura and Yami hit the floor in an awkward swearing tangle, limbs flailing.

Seto stopped picking the Ring apart and stared. Yugi stared, too.

Ryou, woozy and clearly fighting a headache, popped awake and glared.

Mrs. Mutou came in brandishing a spatula, and then there was much explaining.

Things work out, in the end.

Vignette V

Nov. 26th, 2010 02:35 am
zodiacal_light: That is not dead which can eternal lie; and with strange aeons even death may die. (even death may die)
It was cold on the airship, Isis noted idly, setting her trap. Kaiba was looking at the field, eyes narrowed, and unbidden her fingers brushed the Tauk, and she knew that she had won.

All he had to do was play the God card. And he would, for Kaiba Seto was nothing if not power-hungry.

He reached for a card, and Isis almost smiled. She could feel her brother's evil spirit smirking at them both, and though she knew she would inevitably lose, that he would inevitably win, she was one step closer to at least trying to reach him, trying to get the God cards to their rightful owner.

Kaiba paused, hand on the card, and looked at her. At the Tauk.

"You keep telling me you can see the future," he said, and Isis frowned at the note in his voice. "That all this stuff is inevitable," he waved a hand, encompassing the dueling platform. "So tell me," he asked, idly, "was my brother supposed to die?"

Isis blinked, taken aback. "What?"

He slammed his hand down on the dueling platform, and she jerked back involuntarily. The cluster of friends surrounding the Pharaoh went silent. Even Malik - or rather, his evil spirit - was staring. "Was my brother supposed to die?"

What was she supposed to say to that? Isis settled for honesty. "I never saw him, in any of my visions." She half shrugged. "Perhaps he was just not-" Too late, Isis realized the trap.

Kaiba's eyes narrowed dangerously, his eyes poisonous slits of blue. (On the edge of the platform, a watching Jounouchi thought that he'd never seen such a vicious look from Seto. Ever. He shivered, and stepped back, and onto the Pharaoh's toes. Yami barely twitched, eyes fixed on Seto with an intent look of his own, looking ready to kill Isis for him. Jounouchi was just thankful Bakura wasn't here, or she'd already be dead.)

"Wasn't what?" Kaiba asked, silken and deadly like a serpent.

Isis clamped her mouth shut.

"Wasn't important? Wasn't part of your grand scheme? I am so sick of you people," Kaiba hissed, slamming his hand onto his board again hard enough to cause the holograms of his monsters to waver, and Isis knew enough of him to know that it was when he got quiet that you really needed to worry. "You come here with your grand schemes and pat little answers and expect everyone to just fall in line, and you don't give a shit who gets trampled in the process," he said, and Isis flinched. There was enough truth in that to hurt.

But it didn't matter. She knew what the future held, had seen the visions the Tauk had shown her, and nothing would change.

Kaiba's hand was still on his God card. "This is what you want me to play, isn't it?" he asked, smirking at her expression as he flipped it around.

And then his grin went vicious, and he tore it in half, and tossed the pieces into the wind.

There was a moment of stunned silence, then, off to the side, Malik started to laugh.

He doubled over, laughing so hard he fell to his knees, tears streaming down his face as he succumbed to a hysterical fit the likes of which Isis had never seen. The Pharaoh's girlfriend gasped, then blinked, herself again as Malik's wayward spirit repossessed his own body, and then Isis' brother and his evil half were one laughing, sobbing, distraught mess.

Kaiba was watching her, Isis realized, and his lip curled in disgust when she turned back to the duel.

He'd played his card while she wasn't looking. The Blue Eyes White Dragon stood before her, magnificent and godly in its own right, and Kaiba breathed, "Attack."

And Isis lost, in defiance of all the future.
zodiacal_light: That is not dead which can eternal lie; and with strange aeons even death may die. (even death may die)
Yami had no idea what Isis Ishtar had said to make Seto take up dueling again, never mind set up this insane tournament. He wasn't sure he wanted to.

He also wasn't sure he should thank her.

Had anyone told me even a month ago that Seto was going back to Duel Monsters, I'd've kissed them, Yami muttered.

Yugi snickered. Taking this rivalry a bit too seriously, aren't you?

But that was before Ishtar's bombshell about past lives, and these Ghouls and this Malik lunatic running around trying to kill people.

Seto had reacted really badly to that, and had started taking on every Ghoul he could find with unnerving viciousness.

He'd already managed to off three. Yami was studiously not checking to see if they were still alive.

Anyone dumb enough to call a shadow game on Seto in this mood deserved what came to them.

They'd parted ways, trying to lure out the other God cards, and now Yami was facing some mindless mime, and Malik through him, and the most devastating lockdown he'd ever encountered.

He had no idea how to win. Not against the Jams. Not against Osiris. Not together.

Against one or the other, I could have won, Yami thought, dropping to his knees, and the wave of startled resignation he felt was both his and Yugi's.

And then Seto was there, snarling like he always did when confronted with rank idiocy - "You bow to no one" - glaring at Yami as if he could will Yami to victory.

And in a flash, Yami saw the great flaw in Malik's strategy, saw how to turn the duel around.

And so he did.

When he turned around after collecting the God card, Seto was already gone.
zodiacal_light: That is not dead which can eternal lie; and with strange aeons even death may die. (even death may die)
Kaiba had taken to awkwardly haunting the game shop.

He never spoke to anyone. He barely spoke to anyone at all anymore, Yami understood from what he'd overheard Isono telling Sugoroku. Kaiba just drifted, keeping his company afloat by dint of long practice (and, Yami was certain, the efforts of his many loyal employees), randomly disappearing for weeks at a time before showing up to skulk around the game shop's stockroom, or sit at his chair in the kitchen, or hide in what was once the guest room and was now collectively thought of as Kaiba's bolt-hole.

He'd stopped playing Duel Monsters, refused to even touch his deck aside from the three dragon cards Yami knew were part of his soul, and one crudely-made rendition of a Duel Monsters card that Yami didn't need to see to know was the one Mokuba had drawn for him years ago, back when they still lived at the orphanage.

Yami felt a sudden surge of rage at the utter loss of a good duelist, a worthy rival, and just as suddenly felt ashamed. Of all the things to get upset over...
It's ok, other me,
he felt his aibou say. You're allowed to be upset.

Yami snorted, and Kaiba's head poked out from behind a shelf, staring at him in vague interest before retreating. Yami stared at the spot where Kaiba had disappeared, train of thought utterly derailed.

That's more of a reaction than he's shown to anything, Yugi said, nonplussed.

Yami's instincts said push it, and Yugi wasn't sure that was a bad idea, so Yami did. "Kaiba?"

Kaiba muttered something from behind the shelf.

Yami and Yugi exchanged mental glances. "Come again?"

Kaiba moved a boxed console, blue eyes glaring at Yami through the shelving unit in a way Yami had despaired of ever seeing again. "I said," he snapped, glaring a little more hotly at Yami's grin, "that if you're going to call me by my family name, you'd better call me by the right one."

Yami could feel Yugi blink. "But we don't know your real name," Yami said in the tone of utter reason he knew drove Jounouchi nuts.

It had the same effect on Kaiba. Before Yami realized what he was doing, Kaiba had reached through the shelf and snagged the front of his shirt, dragging Yami forward. "Takashiro," Kaiba snarled, then blinked and let Yami go.

Yami staggered, watching in confusion as Kaiba blankly put the box back. "...What's wrong?" the spirit asked gently.

"I'd forgotten that," Kaiba said in an almost singsongy voice. "Mokuba-" He cut himself off.

And that's the first time he's mentioned Mokuba, Yugi said, like Yami didn't already know. They waited, patient and calm, for Kaiba to continue.

To the surprise of both of them, he did. "Mokuba asked once, what our family name really was, back when he was still alive." There was only one he, the gang had long since sussed out. Kaiba Gozaburo. "He'd already forgotten. They didn't like to use family names at the orphanage, and Mokuba was so little when we were sent there." Kaiba paused. "I told him it didn't matter, and to drop it. I didn't know I remembered."

And he started to shut down again. Oh no you don't, Yami thought. "So are you changing your name back, then?" If he didn't want people calling him Kaiba anymore, he'd have to.

The stare leveled at Yami was flat, but there was something alive there that had Yugi doing a mental cheer. "I only became a Kaiba for Mokuba's sake," he said, tone sharp and flat all at once, and oddly determined. "I fought for the right. But Mokuba isn't here. And that bastard deserves no such remembrance."

Wow, Yugi said, impressed by the vehemence.

No kidding, Yami replied, before idly asking, "So we should call you Takashiro, then?" And before Kaiba could answer, he raised his eyes and caught Kaiba's stare with a level one of his own. "Or can we move on to 'Seto'?"

Kaiba blinked, then gave an awkward shrug, mouth sealing into a tight line as he moved off towards the back room.

Yami watched him go. "Seto it is, then."
zodiacal_light: That is not dead which can eternal lie; and with strange aeons even death may die. (even death may die)
Mutou Sugoroku was waiting for them when they got back, looking none the worse for being trapped in a video. He took one look at their grim, tear-streaked faces and, with the kind of equanimity he shared with his grandson, bundled them all back to the game shop, even Kaiba, though they had to wait while one of Kaiba's bodyguards - Isono, Jounouchi thought his name was - persuaded Kaiba to let go of Mokuba's corpse.

Corpse. Jounouchi shivered. This wasn't how things were supposed to happen. Kaiba was an asshole - and a murderous one at that - but Mokuba was a good kid, and no one deserved that.

And now Kaiba was sitting, head down and spine bent in a way Jounouchi had never seen it, not even in the depths of Kaiba's madness, at the Mutous' kitchen table, hands wrapped around the steaming mug of hot chocolate Sugoroku had given him like he didn't know what to do with it. Jounouchi and the others ranged about, uncertain.

Yugi and Honda had taken Ryou back into the living room, explaining what had happened while his yami had been in control, and now Ryou was sitting by Kaiba, forward in a way Jounouchi had never expected of him, resting one hand gently on Kaiba's wrist and stroking the back of his hand gently with his thumb.

Kaiba had stopped crying, and was now staring dead-eyed into space.

Jounouchi wished he had something to punch. This was so wrong. Kaiba was supposed to be the snarky evil bastard with the inexplicably cute mini sidekick, not a big brother shattered and bent by unbearable grief. He leaned up against the fridge, watching like all the rest of them.

It was Sugoroku who finally broke the stillness. "You need to rest," he said, resting one grandfatherly hand on Kaiba's shoulder. "You all do. Jounouchi, you know where the futon is. Honda, Anzu, I've already called your parents. You two," he said, turning to Mai and nodding at Ryou, "are more than welcome to stay, if your parents don't mind and you don't mind lumpy couches. Yugi, get to bed." He frowned down at Kaiba as Mrs. Mutou appeared and started directing everyone around with a ladle.

Kaiba hadn't even blinked. Jounouchi doubted he'd even been aware anyone was speaking. Sugoroku sighed and shot his daughter-in-law a look. Mrs. Mutou nodded, moving to Kaiba's other side as Ryou stood and made room for her. She crouched by Kaiba's chair, saying something softly to him in a distinctly motherly voice. When there was no response, she frowned, then smoothed out her expression into soft compassion, gripped him firmly by the chin, and turned his head to look at her. Kaiba balked, fighting her grip in the first sign of life Jounouchi had seen all evening, but Mrs. Mutou was relentless. She whispered, fiercely and sternly but still motherly, to him, and at something in his eyes she nodded and let him go.

Kaiba rose when Mrs. Mutou did, blinking down at his untouched mug like he'd never seen it before. He probably didn't, Jounouchi thought, as Sugoroku snagged the mug and Mrs. Mutou steered Kaiba down the hall to the guest room. (It was never used as such, even though the family called it that. Everyone knew it had once been Yugi's dad's room. Well, Jounouchi amended, the usual gang knew, anyway.)

Kaiba, movements jerky and graceless since that moment on the island, let Mrs. Mutou steer him to the bed, and she backed out after saying something else to him, shutting the door. Ryou, awkwardly clutching a sleeping bag Mai had graciously loaned him, stopped the door before it could fully close, whispering something anxiously but firmly to Mrs. Mutou. She listened, then nodded, holding the guest room door open for him as he slipped in too, and the last thing Jounouchi saw was Kaiba still sitting where Mrs. Mutou had set him, staring blankly at Ryou as Ryou calmly unrolled the sleeping bag.

Still wishing for something he could do, Jounouchi turned to help scour up more blankets.

Vignette I

Nov. 26th, 2010 02:23 am
zodiacal_light: That is not dead which can eternal lie; and with strange aeons even death may die. (even death may die)
Honda felt the soulless body in his arms twitch once, then go, if anything, even more lax than before. Uh-oh.

He glanced down just as Mokuba gave one last rattling breath, and fell still.

Bakura's head whipped around at the noise, mouth twisted into a grim line. The Spirit of the Ring was at his side in an instant, hands expertly searching for any trace of life in that suddenly-too-heavy body.

But they both knew. Kaiba Mokuba was dead.

"Something must have happened to the card Pegasus trapped him in," Bakura said, in a grim, serious tone Honda had never heard from the yami before. "Rip the card, lose the soul. Lose the soul..."

"...Lose the body," Honda finished, feeling cold rage solidify his stomach. There was only one person who could have done this. Only one person who had access to the cards containing the Kaibas' souls.

He kinda hoped Yami actually would kill Pegasus. Or trap him in a penalty game, or something.

"There they are!"

Anzu, Jou, and a wearily triumphant Yugi ran up to Honda, only to take a step back as they realized just who was in control of Bakura at the moment. But the Spirit of the Ring was just crouching there, staring at a small, motionless form.

Anzu gasped. Yugi's eyes went, impossibly, wider, and filled with tears. Jounouchi's face closed off, reminding Honda vividly of their days as bullies.

In the back of Yugi's mind, Yami was very still.

Footsteps on the stairs behind them jolted them out of their grieved denial.

For a moment, none of them moved. They knew who that was. Kaiba's footsteps were as distinctive as his damn trenchcoats.

Kaiba paused on the last step, coolly taking in their stricken expressions, and Honda realized that he was masking confusion.

Then he saw the body, and something in him snapped.

Kaiba lunged forward, shoving Anzu harshly to the side, and a guttural wail tore from his throat. His eyes wild in a way Honda had never seen on anybody, Kaiba dropped to his knees beside his brother's body, shaking hands frantically searching for life - any life - in that still frame.

But there was nothing to find.

Kaiba pressed both hands flat to the center of Mokuba's chest, as if willing life to flow into his body, and then crumpled forward to rest his forehead on his hands, his breath coming in harsh gasps.

The Spirit of the Ring was the one who finally moved, kneeling by Kaiba's side and wrapping one arm firmly around him. Bakura's face was set, and Honda found himself vaguely wondering what had happened to the spirit, to make him so intimately familiar with grief and death.

Kaiba, Honda was unsurprised to realize, was crying.

So were most of the rest of them, especially Yugi, who'd fought for Mokuba's soul as much as his grandpa's, who'd promised Kaiba's own soulless body that he'd get his brother back.

Jou knelt at Kaiba's other side, not touching him, not saying anything, just a solid presence anchoring his nemesis a little more, and Honda remembered why he put up with Jounouchi's idiocy, and stuck with him through the gang years, and was still his best friend. Jounouchi Katsuya was, at heart, one of the most fundamentally kind people he'd ever met, kind enough to offer unwanted support to a guy he utterly despised, and smart enough to offer in a way he couldn't refuse.

Anzu walked over, and reached down, and gently slipped the string holding Mokuba's locket off his neck. Kaiba made a small strangled sound and clutched at it, but Anzu, gentle and mothering in a way that usually infuriated the rest of the gang, pried his fingers off and slipped it over his head, letting the locket fall to dangle next to Kaiba's own matching one.

They clacked faintly, and Kaiba sat back on his knees, still crying, eyes feral and bewildered, one hand still pressed to Mokuba like if he just held on long enough his heart would start beating again, the other reaching up to grip the lockets tight enough to cut his palm.

Anzu knelt next to Bakura, and Honda dropped down across from Kaiba, and Yugi came over to sit at Kaiba's back. And then Kujaku Mai found them, and started up a fire and a kettle, and they started the long task of bringing Kaiba home.

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