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A Purple Heart

Chapter Text

Sunlight streams in through the window on the second floor of the old building, wind dancing with the curtains and playing a tuneless song on the silver chimes hung on a nearby desk lamp. The air is sticky from an early morning rain, but cool and fresh. The smell of dew can be detected over the usual scent of leather. Slim legs swing restlessly as a petite hand doodles a random figure with a thin, purple crayon. The aged wooden door to the room creaks open.

“Aibou?” calls a deep voice.
“Yes, Yami?” He doesn’t look up from his drawing, watching as the colored wax bleeds onto the white paper.
“Our friends are here, let’s go out.”
“No thanks.” Yugi twists around in his seat, smiling.
“What?” Yami blinks in surprise at the negative response.
“I really don’t feel like going out today. I just want to stay in for a while.” His full lips never falter from their upward curve even as Yami’s mouth forms a frown without the Egyptian’s permission.
“Are you sure?”
“I am.”

The dark-skinned young man studies his paler companion for a long minute. “Then I’ll tell them we’re not com-”
“You can go, Yami.” The Egyptian blinks again at the sudden cut-off. “It’s alright, don’t let me ruin your fun. Go on and spend some time with them.”
Crimson eyes stare in confusion and concern, the royal brow furrowed into wrinkles that beg to be smoothed out with a gentle touch. It’s a call that Yugi cannot answer.
The silence is thick as it stretches between them, but Yugi’s expression never changes.

“You’re absolutely sure?” the dark-skinned man asks again. “It’s not long before college starts.”
“Which is why I’m going to get some personal time in right now.” The answer gives Yami pause, another confused wrinkle on his high brow.

Yugi sighs and gets to his feet when his long-time friend doesn’t make to leave, shooing him out of the room. “Go on, have fun, spend time with the others.” He sees him off before returning to his desk and picking the crayon up again.

Outside his window he can see Yami walking hand in hand with their pretty friend Anzu, her long dancer’s body swaying gracefully with each step. Yugi’s chest tightens then he looks away. There’s no place for him between those two.

Violet eyes glance to the pyramid puzzle in its honored spot on the bedside table, the gold glinting in the light. It’s a selfish thought, but he misses those high school days when Yami was only his.

Chapter Text

There was a silhouette of a man in his dream, tall and covered in purple shadows. He thought he could see long dark hair like strands of silk that fell between sharp shoulder blades.

“Your heart hurts, doesn’t it?” His voice was deep and rumbled like a great cat purring. The question had been asked simply, without mockery or accusation.

“Yes.”

The alarm blears its morning war cry. With a dull ache that encompasses his whole body, Yugi reaches up with one arm to shut it off with a good whack of his hand. He sits up stiffly on his knees and stretches as best he can, causing a scorching heat to sear across his muscles.

He had left the window open last night, letting in the chill of the late and early hours. If Yami had come home he would have closed it. It was happening more often over the past month, the closer April came.

Violet eyes stray to the gold puzzle. It’s been a long time since he’s worn it and felt its weight on his chest, since he and Yami had shared bodies.

The sound of cars and distant chatter floats into his room, mixing with his slow breaths. The wind picks up again, stirring the chimes to life and making him shiver. Somewhere, a bird sings for a mate.

His knuckles brush over the always warm surface of the Millennium Puzzle before he slides out of bed. He closes his window then heads to the bath.

Yugi thinks of his dream while the hot water runs over the sharps and curves of his body, eating away the chill that had settled in his bones. The silhouette had been familiar, but he can’t quite place the man.

The petite man sighs and run his fingers through his tri-colored hair. “Maybe I’ll tie it back today. I need a change.”

The pale blue partition screen, that rests between the wash area and the shower and bathtub, slides open. Yami had come rushing in, his dark skin made darker in the lightly colored surroundings of the bath. “Good morning, aibou, sorry for invading your time but I’m in a hurry. Let me share with you.”
“A hurry?” Yugi scoots forward in the spray as the Egyptian climbs in with his toiletries. It’s not a large shower and the other man is almost pressed against his back. He smells like Anzu’s perfume.
“I promised Anzu that I’d watch her at practice.”
“Oh.”

Yugi’s chest feels tight, like a bandaged has been wrapped around him too much. He suddenly feels like he’s going to suffocate in the shower’s heat, like Yami’s presence is smothering him.

“I’m finished. You can have the shower to yourself.” He leaves the stall without hurrying, and without ever once looking at his formerly-spirit friend.
“Aibou?” Yami calls out, but Yugi pretends he hadn’t heard him.

He quickly dries himself in his room with a half-worn towel that used to be white but is now more of a gray. He dresses in black jeans, a white button up shirt, and a red three-quarter sleeve jacket. He finishes off with a pair of black leather wristbands and a matching choker.

Yami is leaving the bathing room when Yugi exits his room, a towel wrapped around his hips. There’s a bright patch of a hickey on his chest.

/ “Your heart hurts, doesn’t it?” /

A smile plasters itself on Yugi’s face. “Have fun with Anzu-chan. Tell her I said hi.”
“You should come along,” the handsome Egyptian offers, returning the smile. “She’d love to see you.”
“I have some things I need to do. College starts soon, after all.” Without waiting for a response, the smaller man rushes away. Those words keep echoing in his ears.

/ “Your heart hurts, doesn’t it?” /

He crams his feet into his sneakers in record time as he sprints from the house portion of the building to the business half where his grandfather is already working the Kame Game shop. “You’re in a hurry,” the man comments as his grandson rushes by. “It’s too cold to be so excited.”
“Sorry, grandpa, I’m late!” He doesn’t have anywhere to be.

That smile had hurt.

The noise of the outside world crashes into him from all sides. Yugi runs down the sidewalk without any thought to where he’s going. The sound of his shoes slapping against the concrete is almost as loud as his drumming heart. Everything around him is blurring together like spilled paint.

/ “Your heart hurts, doesn’t it?” /

His arm is grabbed and he’s forced to a stop. “Heya, Yugi!” A bright grin without shadow fills Yugi’s vision. “Where you hurrying off to, little buddy?”
“Jounouchi-kun?”

The world comes back into focus. There’s a dog barking nearby. Someone is selling ice cream from a cart.

“The one and only,” the blond jokes, winking a golden-brown eye. “Oh, I know! You’re here for a fortune, right? I just got mine.”
“A fortune?”

Yugi finally takes in where he’s at. In front of them are the Torii gates and the long stone staircase of the local temple. He hasn’t been here since before Yami shared his body. It didn’t seem like a good idea to visit the shrine while he was possessed.

“I’ll wait for you at the café. Let’s hang out.”
“Uh, yes, sure. That sounds great, Jounouchi-kun.” His mouth grows into a smile without him willing it. It feels unnatural.
“Awesome, see you in a bit.” The blond trots off down the street.

The stone stairs are worn from thousands of people having walked up and down them over many years. The trees along the pathway muffle the clamor of the city below. The Sakura haven’t blossomed yet. Once they do, the path will be carpeted in pink and white. It’ll be like a dreamscape in the middle of dreary reality.

At the top is the shrine with the bell. He tosses in his offering and claps.

The silhouette of the man wrapped in shadows overtakes his thoughts. His hair had flowed around him from an unfelt breeze.

/ “Your heart hurts, doesn’t it?” /

Yugi barely stops himself from covering his ears. The people around him come and go as they give their prayers.

“Please make the pain go away,” he whispers, the silhouette firmly in his mind. “Whoever you are, please make the pain go away so I can move on.”

/ “Your heart hurts, doesn’t it?” /

“Please make it stop.”

Chapter Text

“You okay to be here, Yug?” Jounouchi brushes Yugi’s blond bangs from his eyes. His hair is looking a little limp, even his signature gravity-defying spikes.
“I’m fine, I’ve been having insomnia,” the small male explains.
“Oh man, that sucks. I hate insomnia!”

Yugi chuckles then rubs his eyes with the heels of both hands, and concentrates on pulling in a couple of deep breaths. “I don’t have to work in the store today, so I’ll attempt a nap. No worries,” he assures, then drops his hands to reveal a bright smile. Jounouchi grins.
“Naps on the other hand are awesome. Want me to come over after dinner to study? I’ll bring the beer.”
“Jounouchi-kun we’re still underage,” Yugi counters.
“Phhft, we’re in college, no one cares. Just a can each, no biggie.” The blond trots out of the room to head to his next class.

Yugi watches his friend go. He hadn’t been sure if Jounouchi would ever try drinking, even something as weak as beer, but he’s glad to see that his experiences with his alcoholic father haven’t stopped him from trying new things.

The rest of his classmates file into the lecture hall, the teacher being the last to arrive as is already on par for the course. Yugi prepares his laptop to take notes and tells himself the business license will be worth the boredom.

It’s only been three months since the semester started. The main saving grace other than Jounouchi and Honda coming to the same school is that there’s a Duel Monsters and Gaming club. They’re able to keep up their dueling skills and network with other gamers, which can one day spell business for the game shop. They are some of the potential next generation business owners and associates like Yugi, after all. Maybe he’ll stop by Dark Crown before heading home to see how Otogi is doing. He hasn’t seen the other store owner in a while.

Yugi sighs as his mind continues to wonder. The image of a tall male with long dark hair comes to mind, just as it has for weeks now since that first dream. He tries not to think about it, especially the man’s simple words that cut like a knife with their truth. It toppled his walls and pierced his armor.

Yet, he wants to see this mysterious man. He feels familiar somehow, but he can’t place him, can’t put a face to the shadow or the voice.

Maybe if he can make himself get some real sleep tonight, he’ll learn more.

The rest of his classes fly by, a blurry haze that doesn’t bear remembering. He leaves his last class early and he skips out on club to head across town to Dark Crown. If anyone cared to ask later, he could say it’s a related club venture. Yugi has already texted his friend to let him know that he’s visiting. When he arrives tea is ready and Otogi looks pleased to see him.

“Yugi, it’s been too long,” the raven male claims with a grin. “I haven’t seen you since the ‘Holy Fuck We’re Going to College’ party.”

Yugi laughs as the dice master actually uses the elaborate name Jounouchi had given their congratulations celebration. “Yeah, it’s been a while.” He sits across from him at the guest table in the side office. “Looks like things are busy as usual, Ryuji-kun.”
“Yeah, it’s good to be popular,” Otogi quips. “How’s college going?”
“It’s going.” He sips the tea, enjoying the mellow, sweet flavor. However, he doesn’t miss the frown on his friend’s face.
“What’s wrong, Yugi?”

“Wrong? Nothing,” he denies, “I’m perfectly fine, if annoyed at school.” He can feel the heaviness of Otogi’s emerald gaze.
“Are you avoiding going home?” The question makes Yugi squeak into his cup.
“W-why would you think that?” He puts his cup down before he can drop it.
“I might have gotten calls from concerned friends asking if I knew anything.” The taller teen leans forward. “So what is it?”

Violet eyes look away. “It’s nothing. I have to handle it myself.”
“If it’s nothing, you wouldn't need to handle it,” his friend counters. “Come on, you can talk to me. We’re not as close as you and Jounouchi or Honda, but I still like to think we’re good friends.” Yugi’s head snaps back up.
“We are good friends! You’re one of my best friends!” He grabs Otogi’s hands with his own. “Believe me, I could never think less of you.”

Otogi smiles and chuckles. “I know.” He squeezes Yugi’s hands. “So spit it out, or I’ll start guessing and who knows where that’ll lead.”
“What an awful threat,” Yugi comments with a soft smile growing on his lips. “I don’t want to know what goes through your head that badly. It’s a scary place in there.”
“Ouch, burn.” Otogi tugs on his fingers. “Come on now, what is it?”

Yugi drops his gaze to the table. “It’s not that I don’t want to go home. Home’s great, mom’s great, grandpa’s great, and the store is great. Everything is great.”
“Someone is missing from that list…” Otogi squeezes again at Yugi’s sharp intake of breath. “What happened between you and Yami?” He tries to match gazes, but the other teen won’t look at him now. Yugi swallows and licks his lips.
“Nothing, nothing’s happened. We’ve hardly seen each other since I started college.”
“You do realize that’s the weird part, right?”

The smaller male flinches. “Yeah…” he admits after a moment. “It is.” It feels hot and uncomfortable behind his eyes, and his chest feels weighed down like the puzzle is still hanging from his neck.

/ “Your heart hurts, doesn’t it?” /

“I take it he’s been with Anzu-kun a lot?” Green eyes don’t miss how tense his friend is, or how the fine features of his boyish face pinch in pain. “You haven’t talked to him.” It’s a statement, not a question. “You need to talk. You can’t keep bottling this up.”
“I-I know, but I don’t want to be a bother. They’re in that honeymoon phase.” The excuse sounds weak now that he’s said it in his defense. “I’m not ready,” he mumbles instead. “I don’t know what to say to him, and I don’t want to ruin our friendship. I’d lose him and Anzu-chan.”

The dice master frowns again. “That’s an exaggeration. There’s no way they would leave you, especially Yami.” He pulls Yugi closer. “You know that. We’ve been through thick and thin together, nothing can tear us apart.”

Yugi decides not to respond and begins to half-heartedly tugs his hands free. “I should get going. I’m supposed to study with Jounouchi-kun.” Otogi’s tightens his grip for a moment on callused fingertips.
“You can come by, call, whatever and whenever, I’m available.”
“Thank you, Ryuji-kun.” His smile is genuine as he pulls away and stands.

When he reaches the Kame Game shop, to his relief it’s his grandfather manning the store counter. “Hey, Yugi, how were classes?” The old guy is in a good mood as he works on the computer.
“They were fine, grandpa. I’ll have my business license and I’ll be taking over before you know it.”

Sugoroku laughs. “Good, good! I need to retire, these old bones can’t keep taking care of you kooky kids. Your mother said she’ll be home late tonight, she’s covering someone else’s shift at the hospital.”
“Alright, I’ll make dinner then.”
“Phhft.” His grandfather waves a dismissive hand. “Just order take out, why create dishes? Oh, Yami said he’s staying out tonight, so he doesn’t need dinner.”
“Right… of course.”

Yugi hurries upstairs into the home portion of the building. He feels numb inside, and the invisible weight is heavier.

The teen begins dinner preparations on automatic, his motions wooden as his occupied mind tries to think of anything else that doesn’t involve Yami or Anzu. Anzu he can accept, he had always known that she wasn’t interested in him. They were childhood friends and that isn’t likely to change, Otogi had that right. But the drifting away from Yami is what hurts. It’s like a knife in his gut.

They had shared a body. Their thoughts had regularly twined together. The adventures and hardships they had survived had convinced Yugi that they were soulmates—two halves of the same coin, yin and yang, darkness and light. When Yami had chosen to stay in the modern era instead of passing into the afterlife to join his friends and family from the past and to truly become Atem again, he had thought the former pharaoh had felt the same.

Yami had stayed for Anzu, not him.

Yugi puts down the peeler before he can cut himself. “Stop it,” he tells himself. “You’re not some kid, you’re eighteen and you’re going to be an adult in less than two years. Get over it, you’re not the one he loves and that’s just how it is.” Saying it out loud does seem to help. Just like in a game, you don’t always win. In the terms of love sims, which he will never admit that he sometimes plays, he picked the wrong choices and that’s it. There is no reset button in life, he has to continue the path he’s on.

He makes an order for Domino’s pizza.

Predictably, Jounouchi arrives in time for dinner. Honda also shows up. Jounouchi has a beer for him too.
The next few hours are loud and full of laughter as they eat then they attempt to study. Attempt is the optimal word. For some reason their history homework strays away from the business practices in the Heian era that have carried on through into modern times to avant-garde hats currently showing in New York City runways. Interesting, but not quite what they were supposed to be learning.

It’s late when his friends finally go home, with Yugi turning down an offer to spend the night at Honda’s apartment with them, and he is almost able to overlook the fact that Yami hasn’t returned or called.

He goes through his evening routine: bathing, brushing his teeth, checking that his school things are together, laying out his clothes for tomorrow, etcetera, etcetera. Although he can’t be bothered to blow dry his hair despite the temperature.

It's a normal night. Both his mother and grandfather have gone to bed, making his table lamp the only light still on. It casts the room in a warm yellow glow, the edges dyed golden brown before fading into deep black. Yugi sits at his desk and stares at the childish scrawl on several sheets of paper. He would be the first to tell anyone that he’s not much of an artist, but for the last few months he’s been using it as a therapeutic activity. At first he copied the items around his room, then some of the things he saw outside of his window.

But the dreams started, now he tries to draw what he sees in his sleep even though the images are only half-remembered. A tall, dark man in a blanket of night with long hair like spider silk. So familiar, yet his identity eludes him.

Yugi picks up his purple crayon, now only a stub, and starts to draw. The silhouette has gotten easier to form. He still has trouble drawing anything meant to resemble hair lifted by a breeze, but he thinks the body at least looks male instead of a monstrous blob now.

Maybe he should take an art class for his next extracurricular.

After several minutes he has a finished piece. “Not bad if I do say so myself.” For the heck of it, he uses a push pin and sticks the drawing to his wall. It’s his wall, he can do what he wants. He straightens it out against his Dark Magician poster. “There we go.”

He steps back to admire his work, then pauses. Violet eyes widen.
The silhouette… it looks like the Dark Magician.

Yugi rubs his eyes. “That can’t be right, why would I dream of the Dark Magician like that? And it can’t be Mahad trying to talk to me, he passed on. He shouldn’t be able to anymore, not outside a Shadow Game.” But now that the pictures are next to each other, he can’t deny what he’s looking at. The man in his dreams…

Is it the Dark Magician?

Chapter Text

The Dark Magician is Yugi’s favorite and oldest card. While his grandpa has always been the one to foster his love of the game, it was his often-absent father who gave him this treasure. Like other serious players, he keeps his deck protected when he’s not playing, but the Dark Magician has the signs of wear along its edges despite his efforts. It’s only to be expected since Yugi rarely plays without him, and he’s been dueling for a long time now.

“You were my first friend.” The teen holds the card up to the light, smiling to himself as he remembers how happy he had been to receive it and that his father had been the one to gift it. That day hadn’t been the best of days—it had been filled with bullying and social isolation, but it had also been one of the rare times that his father picked him up from grade school instead of his mother or grandpa. His heart still warms at the memory.

/ “I can’t be with you at school, Yugi, but maybe this guy can be your guardian angel.” /

Shortly afterward, he had met Anzu when one of his classmates had tried to steal the card. The petite brunette had been fearsome even then, and had scared the larger boy into returning it. That would be when his childish crush on her started.

Anzu had been fearless and strong, full of conviction for what was right. Those traits became more refined as they grew, and his admiration and respect for her along with them. Unfortunately, by middle school it was clear she thought of him as a beloved sibling and they would never be more than friends. He knew that, and he was fine with it. It was enough to know she would always have his back, an important companion who could never be replaced.

Yugi refocuses on the card before his thoughts can turn to darker corners. Amazingly enough, the colors have held fast without any noticeable fading despite the constant shuffling and being exposed to various lighting and weather. The purple armored man’s blue eyes are still bright, as if they’re staring right at him.

The breath catches in his throat. He’s almost positive the handsome duel monster actually is staring at him, eyes sharp and full lips turned down in a concerned frown.

“Hey, Yugi! Japan to Yugi! We’re waiting on you!” Honda’s voice through his door snaps his attention away for a split second.
“Sorry, I lost track of the time!” When Yugi looks back, the picture is like it has always been—unmoving print on pasteboard. He returns the card to his deck case and rubs his face. “Must be the insomnia.”

The small male takes a moment to pull a brush through his tri-colored hair in the hopes of making himself appear less like a dung heap and more like a human being. He’s not completely certain that he’s successful but it’ll have to do.

Yugi meets up with Honda and Jounouchi downstairs, and to his surprise Otogi is also there. “Ryuji-kun, I didn’t know you were coming with us.” He hugs the raven teen, who smells of cinnamon and cloves, smiling in honest delight. It’s not often that the young business owner can go out with them.
“Meeting was cancelled,” the dice king explains, “so I figured I’d lend my moral support.”
“That’s gre-hey!” Yugi yelps in surprise as he’s suddenly lifted off his feet and hauled over a bony shoulder. “Jounouchi-kun, put me down!”
“Nope, we’re gonna be late because you had to take forever making yourself pretty.” The blond proceeds to jog outside, and he’s not even trying to make it a smooth run. Honda and Otogi are no help to his distress at all as they follow them out, laughing.

“I swear I’ll throw up on you,” Yugi promises moments before he’s tossed into the back of Otogi’s cherry red convertible. As butter-soft as the leather is, this is not how he wants to be treated. “Oof! I’ll get you back for this!”
“Buckle up, kids, I’m not going to take it easy if we want to make it on time,” the raven male warns with a large grin. Yugi scrambles to sit upright and get strapped in.
“I still haven’t been told where we’re going,” the petite teen complains, and he still doesn’t receive an answer beyond his friends grinning and pretending to zip their lips.

Honda and Jounouchi both whoop for joy as the expensive car zips off into moving traffic like the rest of the vehicles are parked, Yugi yelping and holding on for dear life instead. “How did you ever pass your driving test?!” he demands for what is probably the millionth time that he’s been trapped in Otogi’s car. Otogi’s only response is to whistle with the pop song on the radio.

Jounouchi laughs and slaps Yugi on the shoulder. “Loosen up, enjoy the wind in your hair!” He tugs his smaller friend against his side, holding him securely.
“You’ll enjoy my lunch on your lap,” the tri-color teen threatens, but he does feel safer this way.

Yugi snuggles down with his eyes closed. The wind does feel nice whipping through his thick spikes, chilled sweeps that are at odds with the blasting warmth of the car’s heating vents. Jounouchi’s spicy cologne that he received on his birthday from Mokuba is filling every breath he takes. It’s relaxing in an odd way with the singing of the radio and his friends chattering above his head. He’s tempted to doze off, he really hasn’t been getting enough sleep lately with his continuing insomnia allowing him only 4 or 5 hours a night and the odd nap.

A little rest won’t hurt.

It feels like long fingers threading through his bangs. The tips are callused but smooth, they feel pleasantly cool against his brow. Yugi tries to open his eyes to see who’s bored enough to treat him like a cat, but they’re heavy like sandbags. A large palm cups his cheek, a thumb brushes under his eye. There’s a strong scent with the motion, something nostalgic.

The image of an ancient library comes to mind; one filled to brimming with ancient scrolls tied with leather straps, and incense of magnolia and sandalwood burning. It floods his nose and lungs, bringing with it relief—a comfort that has been long missed and forgotten. For the first time in months, Yugi feels his tense brow ease and the tightness in his chest lessen. It leaves him floating in comfortable darkness.

A forehead presses to his own, and there’s the impression of a curtain fall of hair around him. There’s the soft puffs of someone else’s breath that is both earthy and floral. He…doesn’t know anyone like this, does he?

Violet eyes finally flutter open. Yugi’s alone in the back of Otogi’s car, laid out comfortably with Honda’s long coat as a blanket and Jounouchi’s jacket rolled into a pillow. “A dream?” The young man sits up, touching his face where that gentle hand had been. “Who…?”

For a split second blue eyes and dark, silk hair flashes through his mind.

“Hey, Yug, you’re awake!” The blond pops over the side of the car, grinning and flushed. Yugi jumps in surprise.
“Ah! Jounouchi-kun!”
“The one and only, buddy. C’mon, you’re missing all the fun!”

The tri-color teen doesn’t have any time to think before he’s dragged out of the car. For the first time he realizes that they’re somewhere outside of the city. The air is clear, smelling of fresh grass and clean dirt instead of hot concrete and old smoke. There’s a one-story building made of worn, but cared-for wood. The roof is made of sheets of tin, and the whole place is surrounded by a picket fence painted in bright rainbow colors. “Where are we?”
“You’ll see!”

As soon as they’re through the gate a dozen balls of fluff plow into the petite man. “What?!” Then the assault of tiny tongues and wet noses begins, leaving Yugi in a laughing fit. “Oh god! They’re everywhere! Help!” He hugs the nearest one, burying his face in the soft fur. The small beast smells of a citrus shampoo.

After a few minutes he notices his friends are nearby with their own enthusiastic fuzz balls, yipping and licking at them. They’re grinning as they watch. “Feeling better, Yugi?” Otogi asks, emerald eyes sparkling with mirth. The wistful scent of old books and Nag Champa returns, ghosting like dandelion puff on the breeze. Yugi grins until it hurts.
“Yeah, I am.”

And this time it’s the truth.