Going Forth by Night

by: Xananddare Liadon

Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah. I know. The old legal yadda, yadda. But it has to be done. So ::takes a deep breath:: I neither own nor am I affiliated with Yu Gi Oh!. Yu Gi Oh!, its characters, concepts, images, etc are all copyright 2001 Kazuki Takahashi.

Rating: PG-13 for some language, references to character death

Genre: Angst, Alternate Universe (some spoilers of Yu Gi Oh Pharaoh’s Memories and GX).

Special thanks to Mr. Chaos for his excellent writing of the duel play-by-play.

Summary: Sequel to "Embracing the Shadows of Dreams" (picks up exactly where the last one leaves off), Yami has had everything he realized he needed the most taken away from him. Will the apparent answer to his prayers help him make himself whole again, or break him to pieces?

~*~*~*~

"So honor the valiant who die 'neath your sword.

But pity the warrior who slays all his foes." - Klingon poetry from Star Trek, Deep Space Nine

~*~*~*~

Yami couldn’t recall what he did while he was sitting on his knees, surrounded by the shadows that had created his body, enabling his life and Yugi’s independence. Nor could he remember just what had gotten him to his feet, outside of the Shadow Realm, and back into the world.

The bright sunlight of the afternoon couldn’t touch the black ice of despair that had invaded his spirit. When his driver Paul found him, he barely noticed the man’s hands on his shoulders, trying to get an answer out of him.

"Sir! Sir! Where’s Ms. Tea? Did you find her?"

The mention of Tea’s name somehow got through to his mind, and he looked up at Paul’s face blankly before some semblance of memory appeared in his eyes. "Tea … Tea found her parents. They took her home." Yami barely knew what he was saying, let alone how he was coming up with the lie.

Paul knew better than to ask questions. "Come on then. Let me get you home. You don’t look good."

Paul wasn’t kidding. Yami’s tanzanite eyes had somehow turned into rough, unpolished amethyst, his pallor resembled a lily’s petals, and his hair looked more like an fan’s imitation of his hairstyle rather than the real thing. He let Paul walk him to the car as if he were catatonic and didn’t sit so much as he collapsed on the seat, not moving from where he sat. Paul thought he looked like one of his daughter’s dolls after she was done playing with it. Damn, that girl must’ve really meant a lot to him. I hope she comes back or calls. This doesn’t look good. However, he remained silent and drove his boss home.

Somehow Yami was able to get out of the car and into the elevator on his own, but he never looked up, never said a word even when someone got in the elevator with him and said hi. He only got off at his floor, entered his apartment, and collapsed on the couch like a teenaged girl who had just lost her first boyfriend.

He stayed there until it was past nightfall, when he felt like he cried himself sick, something he couldn’t remember doing since his first duel with Raphael. Somewhere in the recesses of his mind he knew he was in no condition to run a small office, let alone his company. So he called his secretary and told her he was going on a hiatus until further notice, and then hung up before she could ask any questions.

After that he pushed off his boots and made a bed of the couch and a throw pillow, lacking the energy or the will to go to his bedroom. A final word to his voice-command lights to shut off, and Yami wrapped an afghan around himself like a cocoon and went to sleep like he never wanted to wake up again.

~*~*~*~

The light was cold, like winter sunlight, its brilliance shining uncaring, unfeeling upon the lone figure in black. It had taken his friends, one by one, until his last and closest friend, Yugi, had disappeared into its embrace.

Yami had fallen to his knees, knowing it was useless to beg, yet still compelled to ask in a whisper. "Why? Why? I have fulfilled my destiny, why can’t I rejoin my friends? Why must I be … alone?"

"Yami?"

Yami looked up and gasped, barely able to believe his eyes. "What … how … Yugi?" He reached out his arms, needing to believe it was real.

Yugi responded by racing to complete the embrace. "Yami, I’ve missed you!"

"And I’ve missed you, so much."

"Get up."

"You were always my light, aibou. Without you I felt lost in the darkness."

"I said get up, before I lose my patience."

"Please, don’t leave me again!"

"Never, I never will--"

"I don’t believe this. You disgust me! Now get up!"

Yami felt himself being ripped from Yugi’s arms and tumbling into the darkness that eternally waited to consume him, falling forever … and impacted with a loud 'BAM!’ on the hardwood floor.

His eyes still closed, Yami’s fists clenched. Someone is about to greatly regret coming in here and-- he jumped to his feet, prepared to send the intruder on a personal tour of Hell.

"About time," the intruder said condescendingly. "Were you planning on sleeping all day? Or were you trying to strive for forever?"

Yami blinked. The lights were still off, the room too dark to see the man in front of him, but that voice sounded impossibly familiar. "Lights!" he commanded, the computer complied and turned on the overhead lights.

"Hello pharaoh," the tall man greeting patronizingly. His blue eyes, so like his dragon’s, mirrored his smirk of smug superiority and annoyance. Imperial purple silk caressed his body like a lover’s hands in an outfit Yami hadn’t seen him wear since Dartz tried to destroy the world.

"Kaiba …" Yami gasped. "Are you another illusion?"

"I doubt it." Kaiba threw the afghan he had yanked off of Yami’s body carelessly on the couch. "Get a shower, you look worse than that hairball Kuriboh."

Yami just stood there, looking at Kaiba, blinking and shaking his head over and over. "What are you doing here?" And why couldn’t have it been Yugi?

The brunette just glared at him. "Shower."

~*~*~*~

When it finally got through that Kaiba wasn’t going to say anything until he did what he was told, Yami half-stumbled to the bathroom, absently throwing his silk and leather to the ivory Italian marble floor before stepping into a shower hot enough to leave his skin as red as his hair. First Tea, now Kaiba. He shook his head, sending soap into his eyes. A greater contrast I could never have imagined. Does this mean Kaiba’s an illusion as well? But if that’s true, if I created him, why couldn’t I recreate Tea? And why him? Why did he show up? Is he some part of me that’s taken form? Or some kind of sub-conscious wish fulfillment? His thoughts briefly went to his deck, not having been used against a good living opponent in years. Is he my need for a challenge? For a real strong opponent? Or is he something else? A need to … his lip curled in a wry look … to stop feeling sorry for myself? He had to admit that the last possibility was starting to feel like the most likely.

Finally, his hair still damp, he met Kaiba in the kitchen, who was opening and closing cabinets with a disbelieving scowl on his face.

"Looking for something?" Yami asked in a 'duh’ voice. He had chosen black jeans and a black silk shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows. "If you’re looking for food, forget it. All I have is leftovers from when Tea was here."

Kaiba opened the fridge door long enough to scowl at what was inside, then slammed it shut. "What the hell do you eat? Take out?"

"Air. My body’s made of magic, you thick-headed fool. My stomach can’t even handle solid food."

"And how was I supposed to know?!" Kaiba walked past him to the phone, flipping through the phonebook.

What’s he looking for now? Pizza delivery? Yami wondered. "You came from me, you should already know."

Kaiba looked up. "What have you been drinking? I didn’t come from you or anyone else!"

"Then what are you?" Yami demanded.

"What does it look like? I’m Kaiba!" He muttered to himself while he was flipping through the restaurant section.

"But which Kaiba?!" Yami demanded, grabbing the phone book and yanking it out of the taller man’s hands. "Are you a figment of my subconscious mind? An illusion I created?"

"Don’t flatter yourself," Kaiba sneered.

"Well then what are you?! I’ve done what you wanted, now answer me!"

"Do I have tattoo this into your brain? I’m Kaiba."

"Kaiba is dead!" Yami shouted at him. "He died in a car accident over fifty years ago!" His daughter even asked me to give the eulogy.

Kaiba just smirked. "So?"

Yami sputtered. "If Kaiba is dead, how the hell can you be here?!"

"You figure it out." He grabbed the phonebook back out of Yami’s hands. "Now, is there anywhere I can get something to eat around here?"

The duel king sighed. "Come on," he said wearily as he searched for his boots. "There’s a diner I go to for late night business meetings. It’s open twenty-four hours."

"And how much grease am I going to have to swim through?"

Yami just glared at him.

~*~*~*~

For all his sarcastic comments about diner cuisine, Kaiba ate like he hadn’t eaten in years and was tasting food for the first time. Yami just watched him, as did the few people still in the diner that late at night. The waitress, leaning on the counter and waiting for the coffee behind her to finish brewing, looked on with a mix of incredulity and amusement. Kaiba is so different from what Tea was, Yami thought. With her it was as if she was picking up life right where she left off. Other than her memories having been scrambled, she seemed completely normal. With Kaiba … He closed his eyes and began rubbing his temples. His attitude is certainly the same, he thought with a wry expression. But he’s acting like he’s experiencing life for the first time, seeing, touching, tasting. He tries to hide it with that nonchalant expression of his, but his eyes dart everywhere. Before we left, his hands caressed his jacket as if he had never touched clothe before. Why? What is he?!

"Kaiba," he interrupted Kaiba’s enjoyment of apple pie a la mode. "I have to know. What exactly are you? How did you get here?"

"You sure you want to know?" Kaiba replied with his trademark superior smirk. "If I tell you, I just might disappear."

"Dammit Kaiba!" Yami grabbed him by the front of his coat and pulled him down to his eye level. "I’m in no mood for games!"

Kaiba raised his right eyebrow. "Now that sounds odd, coming from you."

"Kaiba," Yami growled dangerously.

"What do you want me to tell you? That you’re right, and I don’t exist? That seems to be the assumption you’re clinging to."

"What are you saying?" Yami demanded, reluctantly letting go of Kaiba’s coat. "That you’re really Kaiba, somehow brought back to life just to see me? Do I really look that gullible?"

"You know, you have a point." Kaiba smiled, although being Kaiba it looked like a smirk. "I certainly wouldn’t have believed that when I still headed Kaiba Corp. Still …" he twirled a fork around with his fingers. "It is possible, after all you were a ghost, pharaoh."

"Stop calling me that." Yami brusquely pulled a wallet out of his front pocket and pulled out several large bills, throwing them down on the table. "When you’re done eating like Joey, you know where to find me."

A snigger stopped him from walking away. "What?" He was starting to get a headache from grinding his teeth.

"Oh, nothing. It’s just I can’t believe that you have somehow turned into me."

Yami turned around. "You mean because I’m now head of a multi-million dollar company?"

"Well, there is that, and the fact that you have nothing to care about besides that company, but you’ve also become about as thick as a two ton block of granite. And just look at you." Kaiba wiped his mouth with a paper napkin and stood up, now looking down on him. "You dress more extravagantly than I did, I don’t think you have anything that isn’t silk or leather in your entire wardrobe. Whenever someone challenges you to a duel, you think of it as either a chore or an annoyance, and when was the last time you entered a tournament?"

"I don’t bother entering tournaments anymore." Yami turned around, his head down and his back to Kaiba. "No one’s ever able to beat me, so no one really tries. It became boring after the first dozen times."

"You mean to tell me that after all this time there isn’t one person capable of beating you?"

"You really shouldn’t be so surprised, Kaiba." He turned halfway towards the windows, staring at the faded painted logo and giving Kaiba a view of his profile. "The two of us were undisputed masters. We were always each other’s greatest rival, always pushing ourselves to beat each other." Even if it always was for different reasons.

"That’s true," Kaiba admitted. "I think the only time I put away my deck was so I could fulfill my and Mokuba’s dream of creating Kaiba Land."

"And when you had your hands full trying to bolster your company’s image with KC Grand Prix." I still think that was an idiotic name for a Duel Monsters tournament.

"I remember. I also remember the white suit. I hated wearing that thing!"

Yami chuckled in spite of himself. "I don’t blame you. You looked terrible in it."

"And all this time I thought you were being challenged more than I was."

Yami whipped his head around. "What do you mean 'all this time’?"

"I mean I’ve had to settle with the mutt and Mai Valentine. Not even Yugi’s as good as you. The biggest reason I wanted to came back here was so I could finally duel you again."

The king of games wrinkled his lip in a wry look. "Somehow, I’m not surprised at all to hear that."

Kaiba humphed. "I hope not having anyone to challenge you all these years has made you soft."

"Don’t bet on it!" His blood began to race, and his body unconsciously mimicked Kaiba’s cocky stance. "I’ve continued to train in a virtual reality environment your technology enabled me to design. With it, I can duel anyone who’s ever played the game."

Kaiba almost smiled. "Not bad, have to try it some time." An old-school duel disk suddenly appeared on his wrist, formed from light. "But for now, nothing’s better than the real thing."

"You could not be more right." As his own duel disk morphed from the gold bracelet he wore beside his Rolex, his heart pounded with barely concealed excitement. I can not believe how much I’ve missed this! "Ready, Kaiba?"

"You’re asking me?"

They had dueled in giant arenas and atop castle walls, in a Roman Coliseum and a massive chamber of entrapped souls to finally end up here, in an all night diner, watched only by a handful of bemused factory workers just coming off their second shift, a bored short order cook, and a footsore waitress who hadn’t realized the coffee brewing behind her was burning. They had fought to save the world and save their souls, to discover who would wear the crown of the Game King. In the end, both knew (though would never admit) that the crown was shared. And now, after all their shared history, the Game Kings faced each other in an aisle where there was barely enough room to stand in an atmosphere of spilled gravy, stale body odor, and burnt coffee.

"I’ll go first!" Kaiba asserted, not as a demand, but simply as a statement of fact. At Yami’s nod, he drew his first card and casually added it to his hand. "I summon Twin-Headed Behemoth!" A huge purple dragon that might’ve been Barney’s evil twin rose with a roar that shook the windows. "That’ll do … for the moment."

"You mean that wasn’t enough?" a trucker whispered. Kaiba seemed to smirk at that.

In Yami’s eyes was an almost insane glee, and a hunger. Stop that! he berated himself, closing his eyes to steady himself. This is the worse time to let your emotions run off with you! He opened his eyes, and the fire in them was banked, but still burning. "I’ll set one card face down, and then summon the Magician’s Page in attack mode!"

Kaiba looked at it like he did when he first saw Yugi’s Kuriboh in Duelist Kingdom. "And just what is that?"

The Page, a boy that might been five feet tall with his shoes on and a hundred pounds soaking wet, stood wearing a hand-me-down monk’s robe, faded runes that might’ve once been silver sewn into his sleeves and hood. He was using a gray stick that could only have been his staff to lean on.

"I remember that look, Kaiba. This is one of my creations, and he’s far more useful than he looks. Magician’s Page, attack his Behemoth! " The Page stood up straight and held up his staff in front of him like a bo. Suddenly his body filled with lightening that looked like it was electrocuting him. Then with a scream he focused it through his staff and shot it at the dragon like a magical roundhouse! The attack made the dragon explode like a giant firecracker, and left the Page panting and leaning on his staff again.

"Not bad," Kaiba acquiesced, casually noting his loss of 100 life points.

"It gets better. When the Magician’s Page destroys a monster, I can take a Spellcaster card from my deck and move it to my hand." He took the Dark Magician Girl.

"Unfortunately for you, I’m not defenseless yet." The Behemoth returned to the field, its attack strength reduced to 1000 attack points. "Thanks to my dragon’s special ability." They heard a ragged cheer, although it was hard to tell for whom.

That dragon is going to be even easier to defeat the next time around, Yami thought in disbelief. Is he planning to sacrifice it?

"My turn." Kaiba drew, looked at his card, and smiled as if greeting an old friend. "I’m not sure what card you added to your hand during your last turn, Pharaoh, but you can say goodbye to it right now! I play Future Strike!" A neon blue lightening bolt came from somewhere near the burnt out florescent bulb and fried Yami’s Dark Magician Girl. Yami gasped. "I now summon Kaiser Seahorse, and then use Heavy Storm to take care of that trap card!" He smirked. "I think you know what comes next. Kaiser Seahorse, destroy that Page!"

Yami growled. He’s foiled my entire strategy, and left my life points wide open for a direct attack. Then, suddenly, he smiled. "You’ve gotten better."

"Better than you?" Kaiba asked rhetorically.

Yami drew. "Hardly. I place two magic cards face down, and then I’ll use one of the newer rules and set this monster card in face-down attack mode. That ends my turn."

"Hmm, that makes things interesting. When did you develop that rule?"

"Several years ago. My creative consultants suggested I revise the rules to keep the game interesting."

"Well, they won’t help you this time. I think you’re bluffing, so I’ll summon X-Headed Dragon. Go! Attack his monster!"

Yami flipped the card, revealing Kuriboh, but before Kaiba could smirk, they multiplied into five monsters. They cooed in greeting, causing the waitress to 'aww’ over them.

"Don’t tell me that’s it."

"Not even close. Allow me to introduce you to the magic card Kuriboh Explosion! Though your dragon may destroy one of my monsters, this trap card will ensure that when a Kuriboh in attack mode is destroyed, you take the damage!"

Kaiba gritted his teeth. "That means I’m down to 6700 life points," he muttered to himself. He took a card almost grudgingly from his hand and slid it into its slot. "I’ll place this card face-down. Your move."

Now it was Yami’s turn to smirk. "I play Pot of Greed, and draw two cards. Looking at his new cards, his expression didn’t change. "I’ll set this card face down." My life Points are safe for now. Kaiba doesn’t dare attack with my Kuriboh Explosion on the field.

"Hmph. I think you’re going soft. I activate Mystical Space Typhoon!"

Yami growled. Dammit!

"Now to inflict some serious hurt. X-Headed Dragon, take out Yami’s furball!"

"I don’t think so. Magician’s Wand!"

"What the hell?!"

"You need to stop looking so surprised. Magician’s Wand allows me to send any number of monsters on the field to the graveyard so that I can summon a monster from my hand equal to their level or less."

"Which means?"

"Which means … this!" The four remaining Kuribohs disappeared in a rainbow mist which coalesced into Breaker the Magical Warrior.

"I should’ve guessed you have a back-up plan."

"When do I not have one?"

"I suppose it gets better?"

"Yes it does, with this!" The diner suddenly disappeared. In its place was a raised platform of dark wood. The walls and ceiling were gone, replaced with a dark void. There was a whistle in the darkness, probably one of the truck drivers. Only Breaker was on the field, Kaiser and X-headed Dragon were on the sidelines. "My field magic card Dark Arts Arena."

"Let me guess, only spellcasters can attack?"

"Exactly! Breaker the Magical Warrior, destroy his Kaiser Seahorse!" Kaiser disappeared beneath Breaker’s attack with a groan.

"Nice trick, now here’s mine! I activate Rambaldi’s Device! I can now choose one monster from your graveyard and summon it to my side of the field, and I choose your Dark Magician!"

Yami didn’t seem surprised. "You would do that." He watched as his favorite card rose from a whirlwind of color and light, facing Breaker. Then a massive red ball, looking like someone went nuts in a rubber ball factory appeared to spin in the sky over the Dark Magician, causing the monster to scream insanely and its eyes to turn red.

"Of course I would. Dark Magician, attack Breaker the Magical Warrior!"

Yami grunted in pain. Now I’m down to 7300. "My move. I play Avatar of Divine in defense mode."

A cherub holding a scroll appeared on Yami’s side of the field.

Kaiba chuckled. "You have got to be kidding me." He set down a magic card. "Dark Magician, swat that thing!" Avatar of Divine went down with a squeal … and someone in the darkness booing Kaiba. "Oh, grow up!" he shot back.

Yami tried hard not to laugh, ending up having to cough. "Ahem. I summon Skilled Dark Magician. Go! Slay that dragon!"

"'Slay that dragon’? Please tell me you’re joking."

The dragon exploded like a confetti bomb. "You call that joking?" Yami retorted. "I’ll place this card face-down and end my turn."

"I’ll activate DNA surgery, turning every monster on the field into a spellcaster." He smirked with triumph. "So much for your arena. Then I’ll summon … Kaibaman!"

"What? Kaibaman? I had no idea your ego had grown so large."

"Save it." A vision of Kaiba in his white Battle City coat appeared, dressed in a Blue Eyes helmet and sporting a yard of orange hair.

Yami made an expression of distaste. "That … is perhaps the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen."

"Why you …" Kaiba clenched his fist, then fought to regain control. "We’ll see what you think when I activate its special effect. Kaibaman allows me to instantly sacrifice it to summon my Blue Eyes!" The magnificent dragon emerged from the earth, then the DNA surgery took effect and caused it to sport an aura of magical power and silver runes to appear all over its body.

"I was beginning to wonder when he’d show up. Sorry you won’t be able to use it."

"What?!"

"I activate Avatar of Divine’s special effect."

"I destroyed that thing during the last turn!"

"Exactly. Avatar of Devine’s special ability can only be activated when it’s been sent to the graveyard, and it allows me to take control of any monster on your side of the field!" The Blue Eyes flew to Yami’s side of the field. "Now he’s mine!"

Well, isn’t this ironic. Kaiba thought. "Too bad you can’t attack with him during this turn. Which means it’s my move." He set one card face-down. "Dark Magician, attack and destroy Skilled Dark Magician!"

Yami appeared unfazed by the destruction of his monster. "I still have your dragon, and it’s going to destroy you! Blue Eyes! Attack Dark Magician!"

"Not today you won’t! I activate Balancing Poison! This takes both our monsters and reduces their attack points to that of the weakest monster’s attack."

Which means both of our monsters will be destroyed, unless I do this! "I activate the trap card Fizzle Out!"

"Fizzle out? Is that some new soda or something?"

"I see you never improved your sense of humor. This card can only be activated if a spellcaster is going to be destroyed, preventing any spellcaster from being destroyed this turn."

Kaiba shrugged. "Oh well. Then I’ll just set Bones of the Legend in defense mode and end my turn." A set of massive bones, bleached white by the sun, appeared on the field. They seemed to take up Kaiba’s entire half of the field, emitting a foul stench. Someone gagged and begged for air freshener.

"What in the world is that?"

"You’ll find out. Are you going to move or not?"

Confused, Yami set Magician of Faith in defense mode.

"You added that card to your deck? Why? So you could be closer to Tea?"

"That’s none of your business. Now move."

"Whatever. I change Bones of the Legend into attack mode." The bones assembled themselves into something that looked draconian, and truly frightening.

Why did he do that? Yami wondered. Its attack points are zero. "Blue Eyes, send that thing back to the bone yard!" The living faced the dead in the arena, and screamed in triumph as it won, the Bones shattering into pieces.

Kaiba cursed. "How dare you attack me with my own dragon!"

Yami just looked at him with his arms crossed.

Kaiba glared at Yami. "I’ll set Spirit of Legend in defense mode." A swirling mass of blue energy coalesced into being, fierce blue eyes glowing in its center. "And finally, Dark Magician, send Magician of Faith to join the dead, where she belongs!"

Why you miserable …Yami could only watch helplessly as his magician was destroyed. For a moment, he thought he could see Tea’s face on her, screaming in pain. "My Magician of Faith may be destroyed, but I’m still able to use her special ability to bring back a magic card from the graveyard, and I choose Pot of Greed!" He drew three cards. "Now Blue Eyes, destroy his Spirit of Legend!" The swirling blue mist dissipated like fog beneath Blue Eye’s white lightening.

"Thank you."

"What?"

"I activate Resurrecting the Legend. When Bones of the Legend and Spirit of the Legend are destroyed, I can summon my most powerful monster, the Beast of Legend!" Bones of the Legend and Spirit of Legend suddenly reappeared and merged together on the field. The result was a fully-formed skeleton covered in blue mist, its dark blue eyes giving the cold stare of death from its skull.

Yami shuddered. It’s hideous! Why would Kaiba summon such a monstrosity of a dragon?

"What do you think, pharaoh? A relic of the past, yet it’s very powerful."

"I think it’s a greater perversion than the Blue Eyes Toon Dragon."

Kaiba didn’t reply except to order the Beast to attack his Blue Eyes. This time, the dead defeated the living, and Kaiba’s eyes gleamed as his favorite card fell in battle.

What? Are those tears? Is Kaiba … crying?

"What are you staring at?" Kaiba blinked away his tears.

"You hated having to attack your dragon, didn’t you?"

"I did what I had to do! Dark Magician, attack Yami’s life points directly!"

The Dark Magician sent Yami flying to the ground, his teeth clenched in pain.

"You’ll pay for that," Yami promised, his voice rough as he struggled to his feet. "Now I’ll activate a card Bakura gave me, Change of Heart. Now my Dark Magician is mine again. Next I’ll activate the ritual Dawn of a New Age." A white and silvery mass grew from the ground as if made from mercury, solidifying into a shallow bowl as six feet wide, surrounded by blue flames suspended in the air. The Dark Magician stepped inside, and the altar grew and closed around him like cocoon.. "Now I’ll sacrifice my Dark Magician to summon Wizard of the New Age!" Suddenly cracks appeared across the cocoon like a breaking egg, beams of light shooting from them until the cocoon shattered in an explosion of light. When Kaiba was able to see again, he was faced with a short man, about Yami’s original height, dressed in a white shirt, body-hugging white doeskin pants, and a white leather jacket. Abstract designs covered his entire outfit, embroidered with every kind of metallic thread. Magic in nearly every color of power crackled from his spiky black hair to the four thin and razor sharp blades on his titanium staff. Tanzanite eyes silently challenged Kaiba from beneath ebon forelocks.

"How familiar. I should’ve guessed you’d create a card that looked like Yugi."

"What better way to honor a friend?"

"Some honor. That overgrown circuit board has no attack points. What good is it?"

"Watch, Kaiba. First, when Wizard of the New Age is summoned, all monsters currently on the field have their attack points cut in half! That means your abomination of a Beast has gone down to 2250 attack points! Next, for every monster, magic, or trap card I send to my graveyard from my hand, I can increase my Wizard’s attack points by 1500." Yami sent three cards from his hand to his graveyard. "Three cards, 4500 attack points. Now, my Wizard, attack Kaiba’s Beast of Legend!"

Kaiba shielded his eyes as his Beast exploded in a bright flash of blue light. Damn, I have only 3850 life points left! I need to do something fast, but I don’t have anymore time! "I’ll play one monster card in face-down attack mode, and end my turn."

"You’re the one who’s bluffing now, Kaiba. Wizard of a New Age, attack his face-down monster!" The Wizard charged himself with electricity and unleashed a blaze of incredible rainbow light, like a lightening bolt striking through a prism. It revealed Kaiba’s X Head Cannon and sent it to the scrap heap.

"I’m not done. I set a monster in defense mode."

"Kaiba, you are done. I summon Skilled White Magician to destroy your face-down monster." Battle Ox roared in defiance and shattered to pieces. "This is it, Kaiba. Wizard of a New Age! Attack Kaiba’s life points directly. End this duel!"

The Wizard struck Kaiba with a final deadly blow, sending him flying out of the arena and slamming into the diner’s wall hard enough to send a cheap framed picture crashing to the floor.

Tired, ragged, but heartfelt cheers surrounded Yami like an imperial cloak. Smiling to his newest fans as if greeting long-lost friends, he bowed humbly to them before turning and helping Kaiba to his feet. He gestured they should bow together, but Kaiba only straightened his hair and strutted out the door without a word. Yami followed, wearing a perplexed expression.

~*~*~*~

"Kaiba, wait up!" Yami called out just as the doorman opened the door for the former CEO. Kaiba crossed his arms and waited impatiently for Yami to catch up.

"You haven’t gotten into better shape."

Yami glared at him as he caught his breath by the door before going inside. "And you haven’t become more considerate. Your stride’s too long for me to keep up at your pace."

"I see you never learned to stop whining either. For all you carry yourself to be a brave pharaoh, you really are a pusillanimous wimp."

Yami whipped around just as the elevator doors opened. "What did you call me?!"

"You heard me, or did you ask because you need a dictionary to know that pusillanimous means cowardly?"

"You have some nerve to call me that, Kaiba," the pharaoh said warningly in a low voice. "No coward would sacrifice everything for his people as I did, or risk himself to save the world again and again as I have."

"Puh-lease! Why don’t you just admit you called Tea here because you’re too scared to face life on your own!"

Yami’s slap echoed across the lobby and made Kaiba stumble backwards. "You should talk, Kaiba," he growled. "Or are you too ashamed to admit your cold demeanor and stubborn denial of magic was to hide your own fear of the truth?!"

Kaiba rubbed his check. "Hmph. Maybe, but at least I never took advantage of anyone’s pity."

"What are you talking about?"

"Don’t you get it? Tea came back because she felt sorry for you!"

For several moments Yami couldn't speak. "What?!"

"That’s right. Tea would keep looking down at poor, lonely, old you and wish she could do something to make you feel better. We all tried talking her out of it, but she persisted in trying something."

"Are you telling me that … but how? How did she manage to use Shadow magic?"

"I don’t know. She was gone before we even knew what she had done, and when she came back she didn’t remember. The powers that be up there probably didn’t let her." He walked past Yami to push the elevator door button again, the door having slid closed unnoticed while they were talking.

"Then how did you come?"

Kaiba muttered something.

"What?"

"I said an angel sent me," Kaiba replied testily as they stepped inside the elevator. "She told me I had to guide you into the light, as if anyone could guide you into anything."

"Guide me into the light … you mean--?"

"Don’t get your hopes up." He looked away, staring at the wall. "You have a long time before you’re ever going home."

"… I see." Yami stared silently into space the rest of the way to his suite, not bothering to shut his door.

"Oh for the love of …" Kaiba irritably shot and locked the door. "Don’t you go back into a funk on me!"

"A funk", haven’t heard that in a while, Yami thought distractedly. "You have a better idea?"

"Yeah, you can learn to live your life."

"This isn’t a life, Kaiba. This is a test of endurance." He turned towards the windows and stared dully at the night sky.

"Then why don’t I just take this?!" Kaiba grabbed Yami by the shoulder and whipped him around, grabbing the Puzzle off his neck with his free hand. "Maybe I should just shatter this thing?!"

Yami just looked at Kaiba with eyes filled with absolute weariness. "Do you really think I hadn’t thought of that?" He closed his eyes with a sigh like a drama queen. "If you shatter that Puzzle, all that will happen to me is that I’ll disappear into it, back into the world of dreams I was in before Yugi put the Puzzle together."

"You sound like you wouldn’t mind that."

Yami leaned against the window, his arms crossed, his eyes looking past everything, perhaps into the past or into memory. "At least when I’m dreaming … I can pretend to be happy."

"Hmph. That explains why I couldn’t wake you up." Kaiba let the Puzzle fall to the glass and steel coffee table, where it rang like a tubular bell. He muttered something and fell nonchalantly on the couch.

Yami looked up, as if he thought he had heard something extraordinary. "What did you say?"

"I said Yugi should have never let you win."

"How dare you! Yugi would have never--!"

"Then how come you’re still here? Yugi was either too weak to beat you and knew it, or he didn’t want to lose you so he let you win."

"Yugi would never do that." He turned his back to Kaiba, as if unable to stand the sight of him. "He did everything to release me from this existence, but I was too much for him."

Kaiba looked downward. "I wasn’t good enough either."

"What … wait?" Something clicked in Yami’s head asked, turning him back around. "You … you tried to beat me so I could die."

Kaiba looked directly into the pharaoh’s eyes. "Exactly. That was the plan when I asked the angel to send me back. But you’ve gone too far for that, even for me. I think the only one who’d be a match for you now is you, but then even if you could do that it’d probably be a draw."

"Then … does that mean …?"

"It looks that way." His eyes seemed to peer into memory. "'As long as Pharaoh is still carrying his sword, his soul can’t go and rest in peace.’ That’s what Malik said. He said you had to be defeated in a ceremonial duel to go to the world of death."

"I remember." He looked down at the gold bracelet his duel disk had compacted into. "Sometimes I’ve wondered if there’s more than one way to interpret those words."

"Yami … Atem …" Kaiba pushed himself to his feet with the air of someone who had made a decision. "I can’t go back unless you do. Those were the terms, and I agreed to them. That means if you can’t go, I’ll stay with you."

Yami looked up, blinking in surprise. "You’d do that for me?"

"As if I have a choice?"

"What if you did have a choice? Would you stay if I asked you to?"

To Yami’s surprise, Kaiba didn’t hesitate for a second. "Yes."

The pharaoh smiled sadly. "Thank you, but … I think I know another way." He looked down at his bracelet and morphed it into a duel disk.

"Another duel? You think I can win?"

"No, not another duel. 'As long as Pharaoh is still carrying his sword …’ Malik believed the only way the pharaoh could lose his sword was to lose the battle. But …" he pressed the release button on the duel disk, removing it from his arm and laying it beside his Puzzle. "There is another way."

Sudden realization lit in Kaiba’s eyes. "You’re … abdicating?"

Yami took out his deck and shuffled it, removing seemingly random cards and laying them face-up on the coffee table. Change of Heart, Magician of Faith, Gearfried

the … , … and finally Wizard of a New Age. "Something like that." From the card pack on his belt, he withdrew the three Egyptian God cards, laying them one by one beneath the first five. "I’m giving up my sword." He finally laid his deck carefully on the table beneath to spread of cards that represented his friends. "There," he sighed. "That’s it."

"Not quite. You forgot your Shadow magic."

"True." It seemed for a moment that Yami was stumped, then in a flash of inspiration, cupped his hands in front of his heart and closed his eyes. Kaiba thought he might have been praying, but then jumped when an orb of pure Shadow burst from Yami’s chest with the force, and apparent pain, of a woman giving birth.

"Yami!" Kaiba dashed to catch the pharaoh before he could fall down.

"I’m … I’m all right, Kaiba," Yami panted, tendrils of what appeared to be smoke coming from his body.

"What’s going on? What did you do?!"

"I … gave up my Shadow magic … symbolically … expelling it … from my soul."

"But … your body is made of Shadow magic. What if you can’t finish this in time?" What if this doesn’t work?!

"Don’t worry. Seto … please … put my hand on the Puzzle."

As if handling a piece of crystal, Kaiba took Yami’s right hand and laid it atop the Puzzle’s eye of Anubis. Please, he prayed, for perhaps the first time in his existence, close to panic when Yami’s body began to shudder and his eyes closed. Please, dammit!

Suddenly, the walls melted around them, leaving behind a massive, dark chamber of stone. "Yami, wake up!" Kaiba shook the pharaoh frantically. "Wake up! It’s the chamber of memory. The tablet is here! Wake up, goddamnit!"

Yami opened his eyes with an effort. "We’re here?" he whispered. "I … I need to … put the Puzzle in the tablet."

"I’ll do it." Kaiba gently laid Yami down on the floor and picked up the Puzzle, removing the chain and letting it fall to the ground with a "clink". "This had better work," he muttered to apparently no one as he fitted the Puzzle into its place among the other Items that had been laying there for over a hundred years.

As gold light began to flow through the tablet’s crevices like water, he turned around and would’ve gawked, if it had been like Kaiba to gawk. Yami was standing, the tendrils of Shadow no longer escaping his body. "What the hell?"

"I didn’t think it was possible," Yami said, not answering Kaiba’s question. His voice was soft, but steady. "I had wondered if Malik’s interpretation of the text was the only one, but I thought I was only clutching straws. Now, maybe it will work."

Kaiba crossed his fingers without letting Yami see it. "Isis told me you had to speak your name, and the Eye of Wedjet will open."

Yami slowly walked towards the platform, almost stumbling over the stairs, and looked up at the door. "I … am Atem." At first there was nothing, and sweat was forming on both their brows, but then the eye slowly opened, revealing a cascade of light.

"It’s beautiful …" Kaiba breathed.

Yami could feel strength flowing into his body. "But you’ve already seen it before, haven’t you?"

"Yeah, but …" he shook his head. "Never mind."

"Are you gonna chat out there like a couple of girls all day, or are you coming?" a voice called out from the open doorway.

"I heard that, puppy," Kaiba snapped.

Joey stepped out into the chamber. "Ya think after all these years he’d think of better insults."

Kaiba sniffed. "Whatever." He stalked past Joey into the light, the blond following.

Yami took a deep breath and began to cross over, his leather and silk shifting to pharaonic robes, when he was quite literally knocked back and to the floor by an impact to his chest.

"Yami!"

The pharaoh pushed himself, with a grunt, into a sitting position. "What … Yugi!" The pair embraced madly. "Aibou, I’ve missed you!"

"So did I. So did we. Ready to go?"

"Almost."

"Huh?"

Standing up, Yami brushed off his robes, then yanked the solid gold crown off his head and threw it against the nearest wall. "There," he sighed with relief. "Now I’m ready."

Yugi couldn’t stop giggling. "You really are abdicating!"

"No, I just couldn’t stand that thing." They walked arm-in-arm into the next world, the doors closing behind them. "You have any idea how heavy that thing was? It gave me a headache every night!"

The last sound that could be heard before the doors closed and the tomb began to crumble was Yugi’s laughter.

Fin