Characters: Yami, Yuugi
Warnings: All of the peculiar mind-destroying and similar shenanigans that are endemic in this series, vague spoilers, high probability of me butchering Ancient Egyptian religion.
Summary: As far as Yami is concerned, he has all the power in the world. Unfortunately, power matters much less than some other things....
A/N: For ygo_twist: twist on the idea-- especially in Puzzleshipping fic, but also in the fandom in general-- that, specifically because Yami is a supernatural creature of sorts, he is bound to be more powerful/important/etc. than Yuugi in every possible way. Because as far as I'm concerned, being supernatural should be just as much a weakness as a strength.
He can take a mind in his hands, if he wants to. It’s so easy– the easiest thing in the world, for him at least, and there are very few who have this power. If he wants to, he can twist a mind, crush it, even. The way you would swat a fly. Or, better yet, he can play with it first, before crushing it– and why not? If they want to keep their minds intact, all they have to do is win a game...
They never do win, of course, because although they’re cruel when they think they’re in control, they’re never cunning in the way that he is. It’s almost a pity.
He does not have a name of his own– and that is a pity– but after a while he does begin to think of himself as Yuugi’s shadow– for Yuugi is the boy whose body he now occupies (and he is only a weak little child... brave, yes, that too, and very kind, but weak as well)– and then as simply Yami. It’s not a bad name, he thinks, and it does fit him, and so he bears it with pride.
It takes time before he can admit it to himself: the truth isn’t that he can break a mind, but that he must. He has to prove it to himself that he can, that a shadow, a yami, does have some existence.
It’s an even longer time before he acknowledges that even the word yami is not his own, and when he tries to remember what it would be in his own native language....
He cannot come up with anything.
After he has lived in Yuugi’s body for a while, the games he gets drawn into become more and more focused on a particular set of cards. He finds that he doesn’t mind. They’re only stiff pieces of paper and brightly colored ink, and they shouldn’t be any different from any other contest, but...
There is some sort of a power in them. He can feel it– if not in his bones, then in Yuugi’s– the first time he lays eyes on one of the cards. It’s not just that they have power, either: they are also... familiar, somehow, and sometimes when somebody plays a monster that he knows he has never seen before, he still feels like he already knows it. Aside from being intriguing, that fact is also advantageous; he thinks that he has never been quite so confident in any other game– confident in the cards’ power and his own. Power is something real.
On the other hand, it certainly isn’t hard for Kaiba to rip that Blue Eyes in half. It tears quite easily in his strong hands, and the truth is that, for all his power, Yami’s own hands are numb when he plays. (Actually, they’re numb when he does anything at all. That shouldn’t be a surprise, he chides himself. After all, they’re not really his hands, are they?)
Yuugi sits in class all day and takes notes (or scribbles aimlessly in the margins of his notebook, or jots down his thoughts about his deck instead of whatever his teachers are talking about) with cheap ballpoint pens, which come in packs of ten or more and which everybody uses.
Everybody does use them– except that Yami’s memory is of something different, and sometimes when he closes his eyes (but they aren’t his eyes, not really) he can still catch glimpses of the way it used to be: slim brown hands, a reed brush, characters in the shapes of animals and everyday objects. –Well, things change, of course, and he knows it, no surprise there.
That doesn’t stop him from feeling a faint twinge of loss.
Sometimes, when he thinks about the memory of the reed brush (and he does come back to that memory more often than he would like to admit; after all, it is one of the only ones he has), he seems to remember something else, although he can never be sure if it’s real or if he is only making it up: he thinks he recalls being taught to write by a tall, angular man– everything about him was angular, from his shoulders to the way he stood– wearing a fine leopard skin.
Yami half thinks he can still picture the stiff, measured way the man walked, and the gloss of that beautiful, beautiful leopard skin... But try as he might, he is never quite able to distinguish his face. He knows he could not for the life of him remember who he was.
Yami cannot think of a time he was more elated than when they finally beat Pegasus. And it is they who do it; he is proud of how far Yuugi has come. He could actually get used to this, he thinks, this doing everything as a team. There is... a sense of belonging, he supposes, in that, something he hadn’t even realized he wanted.
They’re both still smiling when Yami walks back to their room, at ease... Although he can’t help but notice, that even though he is the one doing the walking, when he looks up and catches a glimpse of himself in a mirror, it’s Yuugi’s face he sees.
After a while, Yami decides that he must be overreacting. There are more important things in this world than faces and hands and other such mundane things. There is thought, for one thing, and power, and spirit. What does it matter if he doesn’t have a body of his own? The crucial thing, he knows, is the ba, and so long as one has that, one will stay oneself.
Immortality, that’s the thing. Yami remembers– he’s quite sure of it now– the tall man in the leopard skin once having instructed him in an important tale: how a great lord among the gods was attacked by his own brother (and he remembers there being something quite amusing about the brother god in relation to the tall man, but as to what exactly it was he had no idea), how his body was dismembered and thrown in the river.
No matter. His sister-wife sewed him back together again and he was as good as new, because some things are not so easily destroyed, not even by all the powers of the world.
And so: it’s only the soul that matters.
The day that he decides this is the same day that Yuugi’s hand shakes while he’s trying to cook and the knife slips and he ends up with a long gash down the palm of his hand. It’s not deep, fortunately, and his grandfather puts ointment and a bandage on it and Yuugi says he feels fine; there is no need to worry, really....
Sure enough, when the bandage comes off, all there is to be seen is a thin, very faint scratch, and then later still even that is gone.
Well, the soul is a complicated thing, isn’t it? It has three parts, as Yami knows full well: ba, ka, and akh. And two of those are incorporeal, but one, one is still tied to the body– how could he have overlooked that?– and he doesn’t even want to think about that, because his own body, wherever it is, won’t be healing ever again. Don’t think of it.
Yuugi is improving his game all the time, although Yami is still willing to bet that he is not nearly as good a card player as he himself is– but who cares about that? When he shuffles his deck, he can run his fingertips across the edges of the cards and really feel them: his hands, Yami knows, don’t go numb.
They wake up late one morning– it’s a Sunday– to find the bedroom window open and a note in a strange hand on Yuugi’s desk: If you want your cards back, meet me at 10:00 behind the school. If you’re not there, I’ll burn them. Seriously, I will!!!!
Yuugi flings the desk drawer open and shuffles through his deck before making a funny little moaning sound.
“All of my best cards! They’re really gone! Oh, no–”
He glances at his alarm clock and immediately starts getting dressed at a speed Yami would not have thought possible.
“I slept in, I slept in; it’s almost ten now!”
–And now Yuugi is panicking, running out the door as quickly as his short legs will allow; Yami tries his best to calm him, speaks soothing words and tells him what they both already know: Don’t worry about it, he says, I can handle this. Easily. Be calm. Yuugi trusts him, of course, but he’s still running as fast as he can, and so now his heart flutters wildly, tightens all the muscles in his chest; Yami can feel it too, and the way it aches makes him cringe a little, makes him all the more resolved to see everything sorted out– so that Yuugi can stop worrying, stop running–
–It’s an interesting thing, but when Yuugi runs like this, the Puzzle snaps back and forth on its chain and beats against his chest. Almost like a second heart.
If hearts were cold, metal, and lifeless. (And, if only he had one of his own, right now Yami’s mouth would be twisting into a strange sort of frown.)
-- Aside from the original twist, I guess I sort of wanted to come up with an explanation for why Yami's so scary in the beginning of the manga/Season 0 of the anime, since he seems so... normal by the end.
-- I don't care if Set doesn't have a leopard skin in canon! Canon has some pretty major clothing fail anyway. The High Priest should be wearing a leopard skin; it was a symbol of his office.
-- Btw, I wasn't quite sure how to handle the different parts of the soul given the weird definition of the ka-soul that this series has. So I hope that wasn't irritating or confusing.
-- I'm also sorry if the mysterious note was jarring with the tone of the rest of the fic. But you just know that people in this series would use four exclamation marks....