Five and a half years ago...
Yugi collapsed onto the bed of the hotel room with dramatic gusto, letting out a loud, yet somehow relieved, sigh. "I can't remember the last time I was this tired..."
Ryou giggled at him before digging through his suitcase. "You should be grateful for that fatigue."
Turning his head toward him, Yugi raised an eyebrow. "Grateful?"
He nodded. "It's morning in Japan, night time here; if you sleep soon, you'll be on New York time in the morning. So, it's kind of a blessing."
The smaller one dragged his hands down his face. "It doesn't feel like one."
"A blessing in disguise, then." Pajamas in-hand, he rose to a stand, then ruffled his friend's tri-colored hair. "You'll get through it."
"Meh!" He swatted at him.
"I'm going to get ready for bed." He snickered.
"I guess I will, too..." the little one grumbled, pushing himself up to a sit.
After his nighttime rituals, he traded spaces with Yugi in the bathroom, then crawled into bed; it really had been a long day and, tired enough to sleep or not, he was ready to at least close his eyes...
...So, he did.
But the silence in his mind was deafening.
Something lurched in his chest, his breath caught in his throat, and his eyes shot open.
Yugi stood at the foot of the bed, his head tilted, his expression concerned. "Are you OK?"
Forcing a smile, he nodded. "I'm fine. Are you ready for bed?"
The little one blotted his lips. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Blowing a short-winded sigh out of his nose, he stared at him for a moment. "After so many years, there’s not much to say that hasn't already been said."
After making his way to the side of the bed, Yugi sat down on it, laying a hand on one of Ryou's. "Having nothing new to say about it doesn't mean you're over it."
He looked up at Yugi, whose violet eyes were gazing distantly at the bed. "I know," he whispered.
They stayed quiet for a few moments before he turned his hand over to give Yugi's a squeeze. "Do you want to cuddle?"
"Yes." Even though it was a single word, it was saturated in a loneliness and despair that only the two of them could understand.
Lifting the sheets, he beckoned the little one in, and Yugi immediately obliged his request. Yugi laid his head on his shoulder, draping his short arm around him.
Turning toward him, he drew Yugi in tightly, giving him a loving kiss on his head. "Oh! Hold on a moment." Making a strained sound, he leaned forward and turned off the light, eliciting a tiny giggle out of his friend, then re-situated himself.
Drawing in a contented breath, Yugi nuzzled his face against his neck. "Thank you."
He smiled to himself, petting the boy's colorful hair. "You don't have to thank me."
"Yes, I do." Yugi's lips moved against his skin as he breathed the nearly whispered words. "You don't understand how much this helps me."
"It helps me, too." He closed his eyes. "I know much you miss him."
"And I know how much you miss him...how hard it is...how much it hurts...so, even if you can only repeat yourself, I want you to talk to me whenever you need to."
Giving Yugi's head a loving scratch, he let out a sigh. "Same to you."
"What's our schedule again?"
"Dinner tomorrow with some executives with Kaiba Corp, meetings the following two days with the gaming division, then, we have a day off, and the next day, God willing, the final product review."
"That's the one Kaiba's coming to, right?"
"Mmhmm. So, let's try hard to make him happy."
"OK." Yugi made a sleepy squeak, followed by a heavy exhale that warmed his neck. "Let's get some good sleep."
"OK." He pushed a knee between Yugi's thighs, and they cuddled even closer together.
Meanwhile, in another part of the city...
Her eyes opened. It was the middle of the night and, somehow, her apartment was quiet for a Manhattan home; no car alarms, people talking outside, or anything else that might wake somebody in a city.
She tried to remember her dream: A cavern...a cave?
Useless. It was gone.
But there was a familiarity to the scenery...an almost nostalgic feeling of home.
Rubbing her eyes, she sat up in bed, then glanced at the alarm clock: 3:33 a.m.
But when she looked away from the clock, she saw something that she could never'd been prepared to see: The glowing form of a man, draped in robes, his head wrapped with a turban, staring at her with lifeless eyes.
Eyes wide, her whole body trembling in fear, she back-peddled up the bed.
And just as she began to question her sanity, the form opened his mouth to speak one simple sentence.
Three days later...
"It's so cold!" Yugi whined.
It was finally Yugi and Ryou's day off.
...Too bad that they had to spend most of it stuck in their hotel room, preparing for a meeting the next day.
The sunset triggered a near-temper tantrum from Ryou, as it dawned on him that they'd seen barely any of the city, so he forced Yugi to go out and play with him.
The mood in midtown was decidedly festive: Christmas was drawing near, and there were signs of it everywhere. Store windows had elaborate displays, people wound through the crowds with stuffed shopping bags, and Christmas music oozed out of every doorway.
Ryou wanted to finally see Rockefeller Center in person, and was delighted to watch all of the people ice skating there, but Yugi was being an absolute poop about the weather.
"Oh, it's not that cold." Ryou gave him a playful nudge and a smile.
"Yes it is!" the little one argued, rubbing his hands together.
Giving him a patient grin, Ryou stared at him for a moment, preparing to say something placating, but before he could open his mouth, something caught his eye a few feet away. "Come on; let's go buy you some mittens."
Yugi gave him a pouty nod.
Taking the smaller one by the hand, he directed them over to vender -- the one who'd captured his attention -- who was selling all kinds of cute, animal-themed mittens. After getting approval from Yugi, he bought a pair of bear mittens, and handed them over to the little one.
"Oh, thank you, Ryou!" Yugi giggled as he slid them onto his hands. "They're so cute!"
But he was hardly listening.
The vender was the first of many, set up along a winding path, and he soon realized that it was a sort of Christmas shopping bazaar.
A shiver of curiosity went through him.
"Are you warmer now?" He smiled at his cohort.
"Mm!" Yugi nodded; he looked so cute, all bundled up in his thick scarf and new mittens.
"Oh, good!" He took Yugi by the hand again. "Let's go explore, then, shall we?"
They wandered here, there, and everywhere, looking at all of the goods; they even bought a few things to give as gifts for coworkers and personal relations.
Just as he handed his money to a vendor, Ryou felt a tug on his sleeve, and found Yugi staring off a few yards away. "What's wrong?"
Bear-mittened fingers gestured at a small, closed tent. "What does that sign say? You know how bad I am at English."
He squinted in the dim light. "...Past life readings." Eyes going wide, he bounced on his toes a bit. "Can we try it?"
Obviously hesitant, Yugi looked up at him. "I'd be lying if I told you I weren't interested...and I know how much you like occult stuff, but with what happened to us--"
"Please?" Allowing all of the excitement and desperation he felt to show plainly on his face, he put his hands together, as one would in prayer. "It'll be fun -- I know it will!"
A smile struggled onto the slighter one's face. "OK. Let's do it."
They took each other’s hands as they made their way over to the tent, Ryou leading the way; once they got there, he pushed the flap open and peaked in at the young woman who sat behind a small table, looking bored out of her mind. "Excuse me?" he called in English.
"Oh!" she peeped with a start, then smiled at him. "Please, come in, come in!"
Smiling back at her, he dragged Yugi into the tent.
She gestured toward the two chairs in front of the table, then tucked her dark hair behind her ears. "Please, have a seat."
"Thank you," he sang, then switched back to Japanese for Yugi. "She wants us to sit down."
Yugi nodded, as they both settled onto their respective chairs. "Oowa! It's so warm in here...I love it!"
Ryou giggled. "She was smart to bring a space heater."
"You're Japanese?" the woman asked in Japanese.
Both of them looked at her, then each other, stunned.
"Yes," he answered in his native tongue. "You speak it?"
She smiled, then gave him a nod. "I learned in college, then studied abroad in Japan for a year. I've only been back in the U.S. for two years."
"Thank goodness!" Yugi placed a hand on his chest. "I suck at English!"
They all laughed.
"Well," she tilted her head, "don't get TOO excited; I may not know a few words."
"It's OK. We'll figure it out." Ryou beamed at her.
"I hope so!" She beamed back. "You know...I can't put my finger on it, but," she gestured toward Yugi, "you seem really familiar to me, somehow. Are you from Nagoya, by any chance?"
Yugi slowly shook his head. "No. I've never even been there before."
"Huh." After considering him for a moment, she shrugged, then gave him a grin. "Maybe we knew each other in a past life." She gave him a wink.
"Speaking of which...you both want past life readings?"
They both nodded at her.
"It won't be too much trouble to do two, will it?" Yugi wrung his hands. "We don't want you to have to turn anybody back into the cold."
"Oh," she waved at him, rolling her eyes, "you don't need to worry about having a line behind you; barely anybody is interested in their past lives. All they want to know about is the present or the future: who they're going to marry, is their partner cheating on them...that kind of thing. I'd make so much more money if I could do those types of readings, but all I can do are past lives."
Ryou shook his head. "That's so strange. Who wouldn't want to know about their past lives? They're SO interesting!"
"I think so, too." She smiled. "So, who's first?"
He looked at Yugi. "Would you like to go first?"
The smaller one shook his head. "You go first. I want to know what to expect."
"Thank you!" He smiled.
The woman snickered. "The Japanese 'ask three times rule,' huh?"
He and Yugi giggled.
"OK." The woman put her hands palms-up on the table. "Put your hands in mine." Once he complied, she took a deep breath, then closed her eyes. They all went quiet for a few moments, until she finally spoke. "...So, the first thing coming to me is ancient Egypt."
"We know," he and Yugi said, simultaneously.
Eyes staying closed, she smiled. "Want me to explore a different one, then?"
"You got it." Again, she went silent, but this time, her expression became tense...eyebrows furrowed, eyes squeezing in strain. "...Um..."
He and Yugi leaned forward, rapt.
"...OK, this is going to sound REALLY strange, but...it's like there's a part of your soul from your Egyptian life that seems to've..." her lips went tense, "well, in English, the phrase would be 'splintered off' from the rest of you, and he...wants me to tell you something. It must be important, because he's literally blocking me from looking at any of your other lives until I help him."
Eyes wide, he leaned forward; he could actually feel the color drain from his face. "I want to know what he has to say."
A mittened hand grabbed him by the crook of his elbow.
She paused for a moment. "He says that the two of you were severed from one another in the wrong way, and at the wrong time." Looking confused at her own words, she shook her head in resolve, then continued on. "He says that he's trapped somewhere between worlds, and that since he's a part of you, you'll join him there instead of reincarnate if you don't act as his host again and heal what was damaged..." Her sentence trailed off, and her eyes opened. "I don't like this. It's...it's not normal. And it doesn't even really make sense. Maybe we should sto--"
"NO!" he yelped, his eyes filled with tears. "I mean...please; I need to hear this."
Tightening a corner of her mouth, she stared at him for a bit. "If you're sure...but--"
"Ask him...please ask him if he knows how we can do what he needs me to do."
Heaving a hesitant sigh, she closed her eyes again. "...He says the...I hope this makes sense to you...the keepers of the pharaoh's memory can help you...? And that you need to return to Egypt--" She paused abruptly. "OK. This has taken on a whole new level of strangeness."
"Why? What happened?"
"Another presence has somehow pushed its way into this conversation, and..." she opened her eyes and looked directly at Yugi, "he looks almost exactly like you."
He turned his head toward Yugi, whose mouth was hanging open. "That has to be the other me!" The little one had tears streaming down his face. "My Yami!"
"Yugi..." he whispered, becoming even more emotional than he already was.
Wiping the tears from his face with his sleeve, Yugi hiccuped. "What did he say?"
Obviously endeared with Yugi's reaction, she pressed her lips together. "He said that the thief will not be hosted unless he is, too. He doesn't trust," she looked at Ryou, "your fragment to be unleashed in the world without him."
"What?" Yugi squeaked. "Does that...does that mean...?"
The boys looked at each other, stunned.
"Are they saying anything else?" Ryou looked back at her.
"...Um..." She closed her eyes for moment, then looked back at them with a strained smile. "Not really...they're just kind of arguing."
"That's them, all right." Yugi gave a tearful giggle, and he joined in.
The woman blinked at them. "Wait a minute...this stuff is actually making sense to you?"
They both nodded.
"It's making perfect sense." Yugi smiled through his ever-lessening tears. "All except for how we go about fixing this."
"The keepers of the pharaoh's memories..." He looked over at Yugi. "The only ones who fit that description would be Malik and Ishizu."
"There is another." An accented male voice came from behind them.
When he looked behind him, he saw the familiar, turbin-wearing spirit staring straight in the past life reader's direction.
The woman let go of Ryou's hands, jumped to a stand, knocked over the table, and backed up as far away as she could from the spirit without falling out of the tent.
"Shadi?" Yugi went wide-eyed.
Pretty much ignoring Yugi, Shadi continued to stare at the woman. "Do you remember what I told you?"
They both looked at the woman, who was obviously scared out of her mind.
"I...you...how did you get into my room that night" she screeched.
"It's OK," Yugi stood to approach her. "Shadi's a spirit -- a good spirit. He must've had an important message for you."
"Do you remember?" Shadi repeated.
Taking a moment to collect herself, she eventually nodded. "He said 'you were an Ishtar.'"
He and Yugi looked at each other.
"No..." Yugi started.
"...way," Ryou finished.
"In another life, you carried the pharaoh's secrets on your back," Shadi continued. "And now, you are being called upon to serve him once more, by doing something only you can do: rejoin broken souls."
Blink, blink. "But I have no CLUE how to do that! The only thing that I know how to do with souls is read the memories off of them...nothing else."
"Every gift mankind is granted has a purpose, and your gift is no exception. Your ability to recover forgotten memories is essential to healing fragmentation; you possess the capability, but are simply unaware of it because you've never tried to do so before."
"Hold on." Ryou put his hand up in front of him. "Is--" he looked at the past life reader, "...I'm sorry; I never asked your name."
"It's Sabrina." She looked gratefully caught off guard somehow, offering him a small smile.
He smiled back. "Thank you. Is Sabrina only capable of healing fragmented souls because of her connection to the Ishtars?"
"No," Shadi answered. "She's being put in the position to help because of her connection to the Ishtars; her ability is a matter of coincidence. Once a keeper, always a keeper."
Sabrina found her chair, once more, and sank down into it in silence.
"Sabrina?" Yugi's tiny voice finally spoke.
"Hm?" She looked at him.
"I know this really must seem strange for you, but..." he wrung his hands, "do you think you could try to help us?"