The desert was cruel.
Night-fall did nothing to ease the suffering the sandy landscape could inflict upon one that was ill-prepared to face it.
Even when the sun fell and the moon rose to take its place, the blaring heat shifted to a bone-chilling cold.
If one was well-prepared it would not be an issue. One could even say it was a nice reprieve from the scathing heat of an Egyptian summer day.
One man in particular was as unprepared as they come.
Atem awoke with a gasp. His lungs expanding almost too quickly and he found himself retching into the sand beneath him. He coughed and gasped, his mouth filled with sand as he dry-heaved. He clutched a hand to his bare chest as he tried to reorient himself and to stop this wretched coughing. After what felt like hours his coughing ceased and he was left with a different problem.
It was terribly cold, every inch of his body felt as if it was covered in ice.
He shivered violently, his teeth chattering violently. He hugged himself in a feeble attempt at warmth.
His lungs were still burning but the coughing was gone for now and he used this moment to take in his surroundings.
It was night, the expanse of stars above him seemed entirely too vast. How long had it been since he’d seen them like this?
Looking down he found that he was stark naked, covered in sand from head to toe. He was in the desert; he could tell that much.
He took the liberty of assuming he was in Egypt although it was too dark to make out much of anything else.
Why was he here again? His brain was foggy and he couldn’t think of much other than how terribly cold he was.
The last thing he could recall was a blinding light and then the feeling of being consumed by
His heart ached for something, no…for someone. There was a reason he was here.
But why would he be naked and stranded in the desert? Why hadn’t the guards found him yet?
He was Pharaoh! How dare they-
Wait. Pharaoh? No, not anymore. He was…Yami...no, Atem.
His chest tightened with anxiety and he struggled to breath, a sharp pain began at the base of his skull and slowly consumed what felt like his entire brain. He clutched his forehead and weakly brought himself to his knees and then slowly to his feet. His mind was racing with thoughts and memories and he struggled to remember his purpose and even who he was. Names, faces, voices, all loud and meshing together and he could no longer pick out who they were and why they were important to him.
He began to move, one foot slowly in front of the other. He pushed all thoughts to the back of his mind aside from one.
Atem felt like was no longer real. He was conscious in some way but it felt as if he body was moving of its own accord. His feet carried him in an unknown direction and his sense of time was nonexistent. He could have been walking for minutes or hours, he couldn’t tell and at this point he could no longer care. He was numb to the cold as he trudged through the sand. Every few minutes he would stumble, falling on his hands and knees and his eyes fluttering closed. He knew he had to keep going. He would shake himself off and continue walking.
He had to move, no matter how slow, he had to move.
He had to survive. He had a purpose here, that much he was sure of.
Looking up, he noticed that the sky was getting lighter. The sun was rising and for that he was immensely grateful. Perhaps the bitter cold would be gone then and he could think more clearly.
Why was he so groggy? It seemed as if he had just woken up from a deep slumber but he felt so incredibly weak and his thoughts weren’t making any sense.
You’re dehydrated. A voice in the back of his mind told him. Of course, thinking of water now made him ache for it. He needed to find some very soon.
The sun was higher now and he did feel a bit warmer.
Looking up towards the sky he noticed that something was coming towards him. The seemingly endless horizon before him was now being obstructed by the silhouette of what looked like…camels?
Hope rose in his chest and he began to move faster, only to stumble and fall flat on his face.
Keep moving. The voice told him, and so he did.
The figures were drawing closer now and he could see there were people riding atop the camels.
He carried on, walking straight to them until they were no longer silhouettes and it seemed they had noticed him as they were moving towards him very quickly now.
He faintly heard someone yelling before he blacked out.
“Yugi, you definitely cheated that time.”
“Joey…how could I have cheated at Connect Four?”
The blonde gave up with an exaggerated groan as he lost to his friend for the fifth time in a row. The two had been playing various games all night, they started off playing Mario Kart but had soon moved on to something else once Joey realized he was getting pummeled. Unfortunately for him, he’d been losing at just about everything they played. Even connect four. It was Thursday night, the weekly game night the group had set up to keep in touch during their busy lives. Not everyone could make it every week and they understood. With work and school, it was hard for the friends to find time to breathe much less sit down and play games together. Anzu was rarely present on account of her studying abroad in America but during the holidays she spent every moment she could with them.
Tonight, was one of those nights where it was just Yugi and Joey. He and Yugi were currently in their second year of University. They attended the same school and while they weren’t roommates they might as well have been. Joey could usually be found at Yugi’s apartment studying or just hanging out and vice versa.
It was much easier for the two to get together on nights like this. They were the least busy out of the group, they both had their respective jobs and homework but neither of them worked full-time.
Honda had decided not to go to school and worked full-time at his father’s factory and Ryou was taking way more credits than Yugi or Joey could even fathom. Kaiba and Mokuba would very rarely show up to game night but the invite was always extended to them.
Yugi began putting away the game, “Let’s call it a night Joey, it’s getting pretty late and we have class tomorrow.”
The blonde groaned, “Please, do not remind me.”
The two had agreed it would be best for Joey to just spend the night there. Yugi didn’t mind, he never did. Joey didn’t mind sleeping on the couch either.
Yugi had brought out some extra pillows and blankets for his friend to sleep on and they soon got to talking despite knowing they had to be up in a few hours.
“Ya know Yugi, I sometimes wish things were still…hectic like they used to be.”
Yugi raised an eyebrow at the comment, “Hectic?”
“Yeah like with us trying to save the world and stuff…life seemed more exciting then. Now it’s just school and shit.”
Yugi nodded, a bittersweet smile tugging at his lips. “You’re right…” he looked down at his feet, “Things were much more exciting when the Other Me was around.”
Seeing the boy’s face, Joey instantly regretted bringing anything up. He hadn’t meant for this to turn into a conversation about him. It had been almost 6 years since they lost The Pharaoh but for Yugi, the wounds were still fresh. It wasn’t something they talked about often and most of their group shied away from mentioning anything that would even vaguely remind Yugi of his other self.
Yugi was strong, incredibly so. Everyone knew the pain he felt after losing The Pharaoh but he rarely showed it. He never wanted to talk about it and when he did, everyone listened but never pushed. Even then, when he spoke about him it was only in passing comments and he never elaborated on his own feelings or the loss he felt.
Even after all these years Yugi could still be found reaching towards his chest to clutch the puzzle that he no longer wore or even had in his possession. That was the tell-tale sign that he was thinking about The Pharaoh.
Joey leaned over to wrap an arm around the boy’s shoulders.
“It’s okay. We don’t have to talk about it.”
There was a long pause filled with silence as Yugi continued to stare at his feet, his hand now resting where the puzzle would have once been.
“No I-” he paused again as if he wasn’t sure he should continue. “I think I want to.”
Joey bit his lip and thought over what he should say next. He was glad his friend wanted to open up but…by the look on Yugi’s face he was almost afraid to speak. He seemed on the verge of tears which was very rare. For Yugi to want to talk about this…and to show his emotions so freely. Something must really be bothering him.
“If-…if you want to, buddy. I won’t push you.”
Suddenly Joey was grateful it was just him and Yugi tonight. He was almost positive the boy would never have opened up like this in the presence of anyone else.
Yugi sighed deeply and leaned back into the couch, his hands running through his hair. “I think I need to…it might be good for me.”
Joey only nodded, silently encouraging him to continue. After 6 years of bottling things up it was certainly about time he let off some steam.
“I’m usually okay with…with everything. I know he needed to move on and I’ve made my peace with that. I’ll admit I was incredibly depressed for a while after he left, but I told myself I couldn’t be sad. He wouldn’t have wanted that.”
Yugi’s shoulders began to shake and he closed his eyes to stop the tears from falling. Joey began to speak, trying to tell him it was okay if he needed to cry but was quickly cut off by Yugi’s trembling voice.
“But yesterday…” He began, a single tear now falling freely, “Grandpa brought over a box that he found while cleaning out my room. He said it was hidden under my bed and even I never noticed it while moving out.” Yugi paused, wiping away a few stray tears and sniffling.
“It was filled with letters, addressed to me and written in my own handwriting but I had no memory of ever writing them.”
Joey hugged his friend tighter, he had a feeling he knew where this was going.
“Other me had…he had written them. I read them all last night, there were so many. The last one I think was written right before he left and I just- “
Suddenly overcome with emotion Yugi had to stop. He was sobbing quietly now; his body trembling and Joey could do nothing more than hold the boy as he cried. The blonde’s heart was breaking for his best friend but he was at a loss for words. They all missed The Pharaoh but he couldn’t begin to understand the pain Yugi was feeling right now.
“I miss him so much, Joey. So much and there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Those were the final words spoken that night aside from Joey whispering that it would all be okay, even though he knew it may not be.
They both fell asleep on the couch that night.