Title: Aftershocks
Author: bnomiko
Rating: PG-13
Pairing(s): Seto + Yami
Spoilers: vague and non-spoiling reference to Pharaoh’s Memory / Ancient Egypt arc
Warnings: swearing
Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! is the creation of Kazuki Takahashi. This is a not-for-profit fanwork and I do not own any of these characters.
Summary: Flashbacks of Egypt complicate the situation.
Status: 3 / ?
Archived at: http://www.phenixsol.com/Miko/FF/

This is a SHONEN-AI fic (male + male romantic relationship). If you are offended by homosexual relationships, please do not read this. Flames will be disregarded.

Setup for this fic:

* * *

Aftershocks

Ch. 3: Pieces of the Puzzle

* * *

The corridor seemed endless, but felt oddly familiar despite the fact that Seto swore he had never seen it or been in it before. His legs ached as if he had been running forever, the soles of his slippers slapping hard against the stone, but something told him he couldn't stop. He had to make it into the inner chamber before… before…

With a sudden burst of speed that he wasn't aware that he was capable of, he flew down the final set of stairs and ran into the dimly lit chamber. On the ceremonial platform before him stood the young Pharaoh, the Sennen Puzzle glinting in his hands as his lips chanted an incantation, his eyes shut tightly in concentration.

He opened his mouth to say something, anything, and was promptly restrained by a pair of burly guards. Other figures moved in the darkness, some converging on him, others approaching the spiky-haired figure praying fervently over the sacred golden relic.

Enraged, he fought like a man possessed. He used his shoulder to ram a guard holding onto this right arm, then swung his fist into the face of another, freeing both hands. Several more guards emerged from the darkness, some armed with spears. Searching frantically for the Sennen Rod he had secured at the back of his belt, he clenched his left hand into a fist as well and managed to knock another man aside. But just as his fingers wrapped around the Rod, he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder and the Rod fell from his loose grip and clattered to the ground. Surprised, he turned to see blood trickling down his arm. One of those damn bastards had taken a spear to him!

He knew he didn't have time to fight, but there was little choice. He had to get to the Pharaoh, had to stop him from completing the incantation, or else…

Seto refused to consider what failure would mean. He tried to wrest a spear away from one of the guardsmen, but another one got in a quick stab, the blade nicking his thigh, while a third got behind him and kicked him on the back of his knee joint, forcing him to fall awkwardly to his knees. Two more men joined the fray to help restrain his arms and a man who appeared to be an officer of sorts pressed a dagger to his throat, forcing him to still his struggles.

Helpless, he lifted his chin and watched the horrific scene unfolding in the center of the room. The Pharaoh was swaying in place now, shuddering slightly as some sort of smoke or mist escaped from his mouth in wisps, curling in the air before entwining around the now glowing Puzzle. Seto didn't want to watch… he understood what he was seeing, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from the teen's face. That familiar arrangement of tri-colored spikes waved above bronzed skin which was damp with sweat and taut with pain. Seto gritted his teeth in frustration, biting down with such ferocity that he swore he could hear his teeth cracking, but it was nothing compared to the suffering the young Pharaoh had to be enduring. He was coughing up blood now, bright scarlet speckling his lips and staining even the pristine surface of the Puzzle itself.

Seto felt his mouth open and he uttered something which he himself could not make out clearly, but apparently his words had been enough to reach the trembling figure on the dais.

The Pharaoh's eyes slowly opened, and he looked directly at Seto, fondness, tenderness, and something else, which made Seto's heart leap into his throat, momentarily overtaking the pain and fear that had washed over the crimson orbs. The Pharaoh's lips stopped moving for a second, and it looked like he wanted to say something else, but then a small robed figure close to him made a silent command and he shut his eyes again, his mouth forming the final word.

Seto screamed silently as the Pharaoh took one last convulsive breath, his mouth widening in a silent scream, as several wisps of red-tinged smoke rose from his lips. The Puzzle blazed so brilliantly from that final influx that the entire chamber was awash with light, then the Pharaoh collapsed backwards as the bloodstained relic slipped from his limp fingers, falling to the ground to shatter like glass.

* * *

Seto jerked awake, barely holding in the scream that threatened to spill forth, and nearly fell out of the chair he was sitting in. Where the fuck… hospital? He stared blearily at the beeping monitors and stark white walls softly glowing from fluorescent hallway lights, then his eyes trailed down to the still figure on the bed closest to him. Yami…

For a brief moment, images from his nightmare blurred his vision and he swore he was seeing the Pharaoh that Yami once had been lying on the hospital bed, a soulless corpse, his face twisted in a death mask of agony. Alarmed, Seto jumped up, sending his plastic chair crashing to the ground. His heart thudded so hard that he could feel the blood pounding in his ears, while his stomach began churning violently.

"Mmm…" Mokuba was awakened by the chair clattering to the ground. Slowly opening his eyes at the sound, he caught sight of his brother's pale face and horrified expression. "Nii-sama?"

The older teen didn't respond. Instead, he suddenly darted into the small bathroom in the corner of the room, his hands clamped over his mouth as his throat started burning. He didn't even have time to shut the door before he started vomiting into the toilet.

What's happening? he wondered even as he choked and gasped for breath between heaves. That couldn't have been real… It was a nightmare, nothing more, he reasoned. So why am I so upset? But in his heart, Seto knew he was lying to himself, and it physically hurt.

He suffered so much when he died. He was so scared… And I didn't put a stop to it. I could … should have stopped him. I should have done *something,* and I didn't! His stomach lurched once again at the thought, and he unsuccessfully fought against another wave of nausea.

After feeling like he had thrown up his entire digestive tract, Seto decided he had enough of staring at the nasty toilet. He slowly rose to his feet, quickly flushed the mess, and grabbed a paper towel to wipe his mouth off with, glancing up at the small mirror on the wall. I look like shit. Last time that I looked like this… FUCK! Fuck! Not again… He tore his eyes away from his reflection as his stomach began twisting anew and his legs gave out underneath him. Not again… please…

Despite the throbbing behind his eyes, Mokuba forced himself out of his bed and after grabbing a hold of his IV stand, he shuffled over to Yami's bed to check on his condition. The spiky-haired teen was still unconscious, but his breathing and heart rate were holding steady, and he didn't seem to be in any distress. Confused, Mokuba crept to the bathroom to check on Seto. The black-haired teen hadn't seen such alarm on his big brother's face in years, but since Yami's condition appeared to be stable, he didn't understand what had upset Seto so.

He finally found Seto kneeling on the floor of the bathroom, coughing violently as he clutched at the toilet. "Nii-sama? What is it?"

The brunette turned at the sound of Mokuba's voice and shivered, his eyes watering from all the vomiting. "You shouldn't be up," he finally said in a strained voice, swallowing hard.

"I was worried about you. What happened?"

"It's nothing. Just an upset stomach." Seto stood up, flushed the toilet, walked to the sink, and began swiping at his face with handfuls of cold water.

"Seto?"

"I said it's nothing," the older teen snapped, regretting it instantly as Mokuba flinched. "I'm sorry… it's… I'm just stressed out," he explained, his voice bitter.

What are you hiding? What happened? Mokuba frowned as his head began throbbing a little more insistently. "Oh." He met his brother's wounded gaze momentarily, averting his eyes only because it hurt to see Seto looking so… vulnerable. "I, um… I think I should head back to bed."

"… Yeah." Seto finished drying off his hands, then walked Mokuba back to the narrow hospital bed, lifting the younger teen up onto the mattress. But before tucking him back under the sheets, he wrapped his arms around his brother and hugged him tightly.

Mokuba reciprocated, but wondered at reasons behind the sudden display of affection. "Nii-sama?"

Seto shut his eyes and pressed his cheek against Mokuba's hair. "Don't worry. I'll take care of everything, I promise." I won't let him die again.

* * *

Yugi returned to the hospital early the next morning with a large cup of coffee and a bag of muffins, figuring that Seto would need them after what had to be a long and sleepless night. But he wasn't expecting the taller duelist to look quite THAT bad.

Seto was slouched in a plastic hospital chair between Mokuba and Yami's beds. He was still in his rumpled shirt and dirt caked pants from the day before, though that couldn't be helped. His hair was matted and sticking up in random directions, and when he looked up, Yugi could see that his skin was ashen, and he had dark circles under bloodshot eyes.

"Morning. I uh… brought you some coffee, and breakfast." The violet-eyed teen wrinkled his nose at the slight odor of stale sweat and bile hanging in the air.

"Coffee." Seto seemed too wiped out to even sneer properly at the offer of breakfast.

"I could use some breakfast," Mokuba said, opening his gray eyes to look at Yugi. "Hi."

Yugi gave the younger teen a slight smile. He had a small bruise on his cheek, but otherwise seemed to be back to his usual self. "Sorry, Mokuba. You're stuck with hospital food till they discharge you."

"Crud. I don't think the eggs they served were actually eggs, you know what I mean?"

"Mm, probably not." Yugi turned to look at Yami on his hospital bed.

Mokuba followed his gaze and frowned. "He still hasn't woken up," he said in a small voice. "I'm sorry."

Yugi sighed and tentatively reached out a hand to smooth back a lock of blonde hair. At least this time Seto didn't try to disembowel him or tear his throat out with his teeth. In fact, he showed no reaction at all, staring blankly at the opposite wall while he rapidly guzzled the coffee. "Kaiba, I can skip class and stay here with Yami and Mokuba if you want to go home and get some rest or something."

Seto swallowed a mouthful of caffeinated liquid. "… No."

"Don't take this personally, but you really look like hell. And you won't do either of them any good in your current state."

"No." Cold blue eyes glared at Yugi, but the shorter duelist refused to back down.

"Kaiba, I insist…"

"Thanks for the coffee. Now get the fuck out." Seto chucked the empty cup at Yugi's head, missing by scant millimeters.

Mokuba made a huge gasping sound. "SETO! I can't believe…" The brunette fixed his little brother with a disapproving look, then folded his arms and proceeded to stare at the floor. The younger Kaiba huffed, then said, "Yugi, you should… probably go. Please."

Yugi wavered, then finally decided to pull back for the time being. Seto was obviously lashing out from stress and lack of sleep, so there was no reason to stay and antagonize him. It wasn't like he posed any danger to Yami anyways. "All right. Just… call me if anything changes, or if he wakes up, okay?"

"Sure thing," Mokuba told Yugi. But he was looking worriedly at his brother.

* * *

In the end it wasn't Seto or Mokuba who made the call, but one of the nurses. Yugi and Anzu ended up rushing down to the hospital to find Mokuba and Seto gone and a very drowsy looking ex-spirit blinking up at them from the second bed.

"Yami," Yugi breathed, a smile spreading across his face in relief, "thank goodness you're awake!"

"Mm… Mokuba?"

Anzu gasped. "Oh my God, he thinks you're Mokuba?"

Even doped up on pain medication, Yami gathered himself together long enough to scowl at Anzu, who squeaked when she realized that she misunderstood. "Aibou. Where's… Mokuba?"

Yugi looked over his shoulder at the vacant bed. "I guess he must have been discharged. Kaiba must have taken him home."

"Mm. Nurse said… same thing. Wanted… to be sure. You okay?"

"Me?" Yugi gave a short, nervous laugh. "We're all okay. You're the one that had us worried. You took a nasty hit to the head and probably got a broken leg too. I bet Kaiba will be really relieved to see you awake and everything… he looked really stressed out this morning."

"Hm." Yami grimaced a bit. "Hurts… sure Mokuba's okay?"

Yugi and Anzu looked at each other. "I'll go get a nurse," Anzu said, walking out of the room.

Yugi pulled up a chair and took a hold of his other half's hand. "Mokuba's fine. I talked to him this morning. He said you saved his life." Thinking back to his conversation with the younger Kaiba brothers the previous afternoon, Yugi tried opening up the link between his mind and Yami's, but ended up shutting it down very quickly as the back of his head began aching, accompanied by Yami's groans of pain. "Sorry… I didn't think it would hurt you. I better warn Kaiba about that, in case he doesn't already know. He was trying to link you for hours yesterday."

Yami's head lolled against the pillow. "Mm."

"I guess I shouldn't babble so much. You look really wiped out. I'm just relieved you're awake," Yugi finished saying as Anzu returned with a nurse.

"Can you… call Seto?" Yami asked as Yugi moved aside for the nurse.

"I'm sure the hospital's already called, but sure, I'll give him a call too."

"'Kay…"

* * *

Tired of arguing with Mokuba and Noa on the subject, Seto finally agreed to take a short nap before heading back to the hospital, but it proved to be anything but restful. Once again, the lines between dream and memory became hazy…

He stared at the commemorative tablet he had commissioned, which was finally complete and done to his satisfaction. Now all the tasks he had set for himself were finished, save the final one. With a heavy sigh and an even heavier heart, Seto held up the Sennen Rod, gazing for one last time at the faintly glowing surface, reflecting on everything that had transpired since the day the Sennen Puzzle had fragmented into a hundred pieces, shattering his own soul as well.

It had been the hardest, longest year of his life, despite the fact that he was now Pharaoh and the country was prospering under his rule. He should have been pleased with himself, but he could not bring himself to care. Only with the knowledge that each day brought him closer to the end of his suffering had he found the strength to continue on until the completion of his self-appointed mission. Though future generations would forget the sacrifice that had been made to save Egypt, he could not forget. So the tablet would serve as his eternal proclamation of grief, acknowledging his failings as a friend and lover, elevating the man who saw beyond his betrayal and loved him regardless of that.

As he slid out the hidden dagger from the core of the Rod, he could only hope that the gods would be merciful and grant him oblivion, for the only other thing he could wish for was impossible so long as the Puzzle remained in pieces. And he could not bear the thought of his spirit continuing on for eons alone. He had felt nothing but loneliness and misery since that fateful day, one year ago…

He slowly positioned the tip of the dagger against his skin between the bones of his ribcage. He would finally feel something this day.

* * *

For the second time in less than 24 hours, Seto awoke in a panic and this time, he even caught himself checking the skin on his chest for sign of injury. His hand was damp as it came away from his bare chest, however there was no blood, no wound… just sweat. But he swore he could still feel the dagger lodged in his heart.

I killed myself because Ya… no, the Pharaoh, died? If Yami…

He couldn't bring himself to complete the thought. Even so, an uneasy weight settled itself in his chest, and he swallowed hard, trying to dislodge it. There's really no choice anymore, is there? Damn it! Damn it all… I wish… but…

"At least Yami's alive… awake, even. The hospital said so," he muttered aloud to himself, turning slowly towards his cellphone as it began ringing. The hospital…?

Seto's hand shook as he picked up the phone. Out of habit, he glanced down and saw an unfamiliar number flashing on the screen. That certainly did nothing to ease his nerves.

After another moment's hesitation, he finally took the call. "… Kaiba."

"Hi, it's Yugi. Yami asked me to give you a call."

"I see..." Seto could feel his pulse starting to slow back down.

"Um… so… are you going to come down to see him today?"

A quick glance at the clock. There was only about an hour left before visiting hours were over. It would work as an excuse. "I can't… I mean, not today. There's only an hour left."

"Oh." There was a pause and Seto could hear muffled voices in the background. "Is Mokuba there? Yami's still worried about him."

The brunette bit his lip. It's… for the best… "Yeah, but… he's resting." It was only a partial lie.

"I see." More whispering. "So when will you be coming by tomorrow?"

Seto stared at the phone for several seconds, then ended the call without giving an answer.

* * *

In the hospital, it took Yugi all his self-control to not show his dismay at the way Seto handled the phone call. Why didn't he respond? It wasn't a hard question…

"Aibou?"

Startled, Yugi quickly mumbled, "Okay, thanks," into the mouthpiece, then set the phone back down on the little ledge by Yami's bed. Putting on what he hoped was a convincing smile, he told Yami, "He said he'll come by tomorrow. Mokuba's resting and he wants to keep an eye on him."

Not expecting that response, Yami's clouded crimson eyes searched Yugi's face for any sign of deception. "Tomorrow?"

"Mm hmm." He felt like crap, having to lie like that, but Yami seemed desperate for reassurance, and he didn't want to make him worry and possibly get worse. But now Anzu was looking at him suspiciously as well.

The ex-spirit frowned slightly, his fingers tightening a bit on the sheet over his body. Something was wrong, he could feel it, but he couldn't imagine why Yugi would lie about something like that. "You'll… come back too?"

"Of course I will."

"Tomorrow." Yami exhaled tiredly. "Okay."

* * *

TBC

Author’s Notes:

October 7, 2005