The first time Yugi saw them he nearly panicked. They were standing right there, so near, so casual, just leaning on the wall of the alley, staring at him like shadows from a nightmare. Yugi had looked around wildly to see if anyone else had noticed them. He’d even asked the others if they could see anything in the alley, but they had not. Jonouchi had peered into the dark alley but seen nothing. Anzu had just shaken her head and given him a strange look. Ryô had glanced at the alley and then looked at him worriedly. Honda had asked if he was alright. None of them had seen what he’d seen so clearly.
The shadows hadn't moved. They just stared at him as he and his friends walked past. He’d looked at them worriedly, feeling afraid and confused. Why could he see them when no one else could? Eventually they’d walked past the alley and the shadows had been left behind. Yet Yugi had been able to feel their smothering gaze on his skin for hours afterwards.
The next time he saw them was that very same day, but in a different place. This time they were standing in the shadows near the entrance of his school, not too far from the spot where Yugi usually sat with his friends when they were working on school things. The shadows just stood there, leaning on the wall, staring at him with expressive burning eyes, not saying a thing and not moving, just staring.
Again Yugi asked the others if they could see anything, and again they saw nothing. This time they were more worried, asking if he was alright, if the heat was getting to him, if he should go to the nurse's office. Yugi just smiled at them and assured them that he was okay, even while he kept glancing at the shadows worriedly. Yet the shadows did nothing. Just stared.
The third time happened when he was walking home from school. Jonouchi was walking with him even though he lived in another direction. The blonde boy was probably worried about him since he had been acting strange all day. Yugi didn't mind, he was actually comforted by his friends presence… he hadn’t wanted to be alone for fear that the shadows would appear again.
And there they were, closer this time, close enough to touch; standing at each side of the entrance of the Game Shop, staring again. Jonouchi walked right in front of them, never seeing them, and opened the door for Yugi who hesitated for a moment, staring at the shadows.
"You seeing something again, Yug?" The blonde asked, seeing the way he was staring at the shadows.
"Y-yeah," Yugi murmured, looking at one and then the other, eyes flickering between them with anxiety. "You can't see them? They're right there."
"There's nothing there, Yug. Maybe you should go inside and lay down," the blonde said with a frown before making an inviting gesture with his hand. "C'mon."
Yugi hesitated still, eyeing the shadows warily while they stared at him with scalding eyes. When he finally managed to gather his courage to step forward and slip past Jonouchi, he swore one of the shadows reached out its hand and touched him. He felt shivery because of it for the rest of the day, even though the shadows didn't appear again, allowing him to fall asleep in relative peace.
But when he woke up the next morning, the shadows were in his room, one sitting casually on his desk while other was leaning on the wall nearby. Both were still staring at him, still silent. At the first sight them Yugi couldn't help the cry of fear, which caused his grandfather to rush into the room. Even with the old man there Yugi barely managed to get out from under his sheets - and the shadows were still there, still staring.
"Yugi? Yugi, are you alright?" The old gamer asked him as he shivered and stared at the shadows with frightened eyes.
"Can't you see them?" Yugi asked desperately. "They're right there!"
"There's nothing there Yugi," Sugoroku said, now looking even more worried than before. "Are you alright, son? Maybe I should call your school today and tell that you'll be staying home sick --"
"No, I don't want to stay here!" Yugi cried almost desperately. "Not with them here!"
"But there is no one here, Yugi, just you and me," the old man tried to speak in a soothing voice, but he was too worried for it to sound right. Yugi shook his head and finally turned his eyes away from the shadows. They were right there, why couldn't anyone else see them?!
"Calm down," his grandfather rubbed his shoulders. "You can go to school if you're absolutely sure --"
"I am. I don't want to stay here with them, please!"
The shadows stayed in his bedroom when he left and they didn't appear on the way to school, but when he finally got there, they were there waiting for him. One was sitting on the floor right beside his desk in the classroom; the other was sitting on the windowsill on the other side of his desk, leaving his seat right between them. Both were staring at him, their blazing eyes following him when he walked across the room.
This time he knew not to say anything, knowing that his grandfather had called to the school about his supposed delusions. The school councillor had been giving him thoughtful looks in the hall earlier, the kind of looks he gave to kids who were eventually given to psychiatrists and such. So Yugi swallowed his fear and sat down between the two shadows, trying to smother his shivering. He didn't want the others to think he was insane.
He closed his eyes tightly when he saw other students walking towards the shadows, never seeing them and therefore apparently going to walk right through them. When he opened his eyes the shadows were still there, still staring, and the other students were taking their seats.
"Are you alright, Yug? Seen any more apparitions?" Jonouchi asked worriedly from his seat.
"I-I'm fine," Yugi assured weakly, but he really wasn't. Not when he was sitting between these two nightmarish ghosts no one else could see.
When the class was over, Yugi wanted to bolt right out of the room and as far away from the ghosts as he could get. But when he stood up, so did the shadows beside him, when he left they left with him, following him, still staring. He had to bite back the whimpers that threatened to come forth because of the idea that they would be following him around. Instead of running away or crying, he swallowed his dread and tried to act normally. But how normal could you be when you had two nightmares following you?
By the end of the day he’d been called to visit the councillor's office. The shadows stood behind him as he took a seat before the councillor. The man smiled at him, trying to calm jumpy Yugi down, but it had little affect - not when Yugi was between the two terrors and was afraid of being proclaimed insane. Then the councillor started to ask questions. How was he today, has anything unusual happened, how was he eating, what had he done lately, did he like his friends… was he seeing things no one else could see?
Terrified about the idea of being considered insane, Yugi denied everything, assured the man that he was fine, that he was just a little stressed and nothing more. It took nearly all his will power not to glance at the shadows behind him while talking, but he managed it somehow. The councillor didn't seem to believe him, but eventually let it be and let him leave. When Yugi left, the nightmares followed right behind him. They followed him thorough the entire day, all the way into night where Yugi turned and twisted in his bed, unable to sleep beneath their gaze.
When he woke up the next morning, one of them was lying beside him on the bed and other was sitting on his other side. The one laying on his bed was drawing circles on his chest with its fingers and other was smoothing its finger through his hair. Yugi had never been as frightened in his life and he didn't dare to move before his grandfather called that he would be late for school. When that happened he bolted into movement so fast that he had no time to look at the ghosts. When he finally ran towards school, the shadows ran beside him, no longer touching but close, so close.
After that they were always by his side. In school, at home, when he spent time with his friends, even when he took baths and used the toilet they were there. In the mornings he would find them so close that it was frightening, their eyes still burning as their hands trailed on his skin, their fingers mapping his body. Yugi was terrified, but at the same time he was adjusting. They didn't hurt him, they didn't speak to him, and they did nothing but stared and touched carefully. Sometimes they even seemed to be afraid to touch him as if fearing he would break. Or that they couldn't touch him as if he was just an illusion to them.
They shouldn't be there, Yugi's mind told him over and over again. These nightmares belonged in the past that had been buried with his yami, with Pharaoh Atem who had retuned to his own time - or passed on to the next world, who knew. These shadows should've vanished along with the pharaoh, along with the Shadow Games, along with the items, along with all of that. Yet they were there and only he knew about it, only he could see them.
As days went by and the shadows remained there, Yugi found himself wondering on more than one occasion if he really was going insane. There was no natural or unnatural explanation for the shadows, there was no reason for them to be there, or for them to act like they were. Why were they staring at him, why were they touching him, why? Why him?
"Still seeing things, Yugi?" Ryô asked him worriedly a week or so after the first apparition.
Yugi glanced at the shadows that were still standing behind him, almost waiting for some kind of reaction from them but getting nothing. They just stood there and stared, one with their arms crossed over their chest and the other leaning on the other's shoulder. Casual and still frightening. "Yeah, but I think I'm getting adjusted to them by now," he smiled at his white haired friend. "Just don't tell anyone. I don't want them to think I'm crazy. Even if I am. I can handle this."
"Are you sure?" Ryô frowned, glancing at the air behind Yugi. For a moment Yugi hoped that there was some kind of recognition in Ryô's eyes; that he would see even a ghost of what he was seeing, even a shimmer… but Ryô squinted and clearly saw nothing. "Can't you even tell me what you're seeing exactly?" the albino asked with a worried frown.
"Would it really make any difference?" Yugi asked, tilting his head to the side. He didn't want to tell. If Ryô couldn't see, then there was no point in him knowing, was there? As long as no one else saw the shadows, he wouldn't describe them or name them. Maybe he was being selfish, maybe he was being afraid, but he knew that in the moment he named them as people and not just as things, they would become more real to him, more frightening. For as long as he could avoid that, he would. "They could just be figments of my imagination so there's really no point, is there?"
"Hmm…" Ryô looked at him suspiciously one last time before sighing and switching the subject. Yugi glanced at the shadows while he talked, but there was no change in them. They stood there casually and did nothing, showed no real expression, just stared at him.
That evening there was no one to walk him home, so he walked alone with his two nightmarish shadows. Strangely enough, even though nervous and still slightly anxious, he wasn't afraid of his shadows anymore, nor about being alone with them. If they did nothing when he was sleeping and therefore utterly helpless, then they wouldn't do anything when he was walking outside either. He was worried about why they were there and what their motives were, but he wasn't afraid of them, not anymore.
He was just passing by the very same alley where he’d seen the shadows for the first time when he heard rushed steps and felt someone grab him from behind. A hand covered his mouth to muffle his screams while another came to his throat along with the cold blade of a knife. "We meet again, little Yugi," a rough voice murmured to his ear and before he could do anything he was pulled into the alley.
It was Ushio, the bully from long ago, from the very same days when he had completed the Millennium Puzzle, the one who’d tried to blackmail money from him. "Protection money" the bully had called it. Ushio had beaten up Jonouchi and Honda "for him", and then called for payment which Yugi couldn't afford… he’d been the first person Atem had challenged to Shadow Games while existing in his body. Ever since then he had been in a mental ward, insane beyond help thanks to Shadow Magic.
Yugi whimpered at the sight of the much taller and much stronger teen – nearly a man now - who was soon throwing him against the wall while holding the knife to Yugi's throat. "I've been in a mental ward thanks to you for few years now," Ushio grunted to him, his eyes blazing with a different kind of insanity, pure hateful madness. "Until some time ago I mysteriously regained my wit. I was released from their care just few days ago, and ever since then I've been looking for an opportunity to thank you for what you did for me…"
Yugi felt numb as the realisation flushed over him. Atem had gone away, taking everything of the shadows with him… it stood to reason that what he’d done would be undone as well. The illusions, spells and such he had cast would dissolve and the people he had punished with insanity would be cured. For a moment he wondered if that was the reason why the shadows were there now. What had been done to the shadows had become undone when Atem had left.
Whimpering as the knife dug into his skin, Yugi tried to struggle and get away from the former bully who, by the looks of it, was all for killing him. Yet there was little he could do - Ushio was too strong for him to fight alone, had been back then and definitely was now. Tears stung in the petite duellist's eyes as he wondered if this would be the way he would die…
"Look at me, you little bastard!" Ushio growled, forcing Yugi to open his eyes. At first Yugi only saw the maddened face of the elder teen that had once gone to the same school as he had, but then he saw something else, something which made his eyes widen.
The nightmarish shadows stood now behind Ushio and they looked even more nightmarish than before. One was smirking absolutely insanely, the other just plain evilly, and both were holding their hands up as if to strike. Yet they didn't. They looked at Yugi as if waiting for permission.
"Please…" Yugi whimpered as the knife dug deeper, causing more pain and a trickle of blood to run down his neck.
"Begging already, pathetic," Ushio sneered.
But Yugi wasn't looking at him. "Please, help."
Ushio died instantly. One of the shadows plunged its hand through Ushio's chest, the bloody hand ripped through his chest causing blood to splatter all over Yugi. As the short duellist watched in horror, the other shadow did the same as the first one, with less force so that its hand did not come through. But what the latter shadow did was even more horrifying because when he ripped its bloody hand out of the bully's body, it was holding a something dark red and bloody. A human heart.
"Oh my god," Yugi whispered, pressing harder against the wall while the bully fell. Then while the first shadow pulled its hand out, the other licked the heart it had ripped out of Ushio with a wide smirk on its face. Yugi gulped, more horrified than he had been before as the other tasted the blood staining its hand as well. While the second shadow threw the heart away in disgust, Yugi finally gave into his panic and ran as fast as he could.
By the time he made it to the game shop, he was out of breath and hurting all over from running so much. Thankfully his grandfather wasn't home so that he could wash the blood away from his clothing and from himself, but even such a tedious task did not calm him. His heart continued to hammer for hours and hours, and even though the shadows did not show up he could not sleep for hours. When he finally fell asleep, it was almost morning and his dreams were uneasy and nightmarish.
When he woke up, the two shadows were there, one laying on his left and the other on his right, both looking at him, caressing him, pleading for forgiveness with their eyes. The same eyes, which had been glazed with bloodthirsty insanity last night. "Why?" Yugi gasped to them, before covering his eyes to hide his tears of panic, confusion and terror. "Why are you here? Why are you following me? Why? You should be gone! Why?!"
Neither of the shadows answered, just continued to caress him gently, to watch him and to just lie there. So close that he could feel something that could've been body warmth, but Yugi wasn't sure. When Yugi's dam finally broke and he started to cry at the feeling of being so terribly uncertain, they held him, rubbed his back comfortingly and tried to calm him down, causing him to freak out even more.
He was like a ghost for a few days afterwards, his mind replaying the horrible murder he’d witnessed. He didn't know what had happened to the body, because it hadn't been in the news and no one knew about Ushio's death. Maybe the shadows had dealt with it. In any case, he couldn't walk past that alley anymore, now going the long way just to avoid it.
People got worried for him again, but it didn't help his confusion and anxiety at all as he worried. The shadows didn't harm him, but it was now verified that they could harm people, even kill them. Even though the nightmares paid no attention to anyone but him, he worried about the people around him, fearing what the shadows would do to them.
"Yugi, are you alright? You've been looking sick for a few days now," Anzu spoke to him at one lunch break.
"Hm…" Yugi frowned a bit. He couldn't even lie that he was fine because he was so not-fine that anyone could see it. "No," he finally shook his head. "I'm not… but I will be one day." At least he hoped that he would be; hoped that the murder he’d seen would be the only one he’d have to witness and that the shadows wouldn't harm anyone else. Hoped… knowing that if the shadows wanted to kill someone else, they would and there would be little he could do.
As he sighed somewhat morosely, one of the shadows moved closer and nuzzled his neck gently, warping its arm around his stomach. Glancing back to it, Yugi saw the content expression on its face and the way the other shadow was leaning closer as well until it was resting its chin against Yugi's shoulder. They were monsters, Yugi's mind told him, even while his heart warmed a little at their actions.
"They're there again? The shadows?” Honda asked sharply while everyone stared at Yugi who was still looking back to the two nightmares.
"Yeah," Yugi nodded.
"Yug," Jonouchi frowned worriedly. "M-maybe you should, I dunno, get some help? I'm not saying that you're crazy or something, but, um…"
Yugi turned to look at his friend before smiling slightly. "I don't think anyone could help me, not with this," he answered. Thankfully, even though they still looked suspicious and worried, his friends let it be. Leaving him to deal with the matter of the shadows by himself.
"I wonder," Yugi murmured later that day while walking home alone with his shadows. "If I said your names, would you vanish? Or become more real?" the shadows didn't answer, just looked at him with burning eyes, walking by his side. "I wonder if you will ever talk. Can you talk at all? Hmm…" With a sigh he looked up to the darkening sky, putting his hands behind his head. "I wonder if you even know why you are here… if you are who I think you are, or some kind of shards of them, ghosts of what they once were…"
Glancing at the shadows, he narrowed his eyes a little. Did he dare to say their names out loud? "I wonder how long will you stick around me," he whispered. "…yami no Marik, yami no Bakura."
The ghosts didn't answer and didn't falter, just staring at him, walking by his side. Yugi sighed, shook his head and then looked forward again. "Oh well. Let's go home then and let time tell what will become of you two."