DISCLAIMER: This is a work of fanfiction produced for entertainment purposes only. Yu-Gi-Oh! and all related characters are the creations of Kazuki Takahashi.

AUTHOR'S NOTE 1: Speech written as 'text' indicates that it's being thought, not spoken.

AUTHOR'S NOTE 2: Although Yugi's mother is not mentioned in the anime, she does appear in the manga. Her exact relationship to Yugi's Grandpa is unknown, however since Yugi has the same surname as his Grandpa, logic says that she is his daughter-in-law.

 

The Caretaker
By Shadow's Mirror

 

The rain was teeming down so hard that it was coming from all directions at once. Yugi shivered and wrapped his arms around himself for warmth as he hurried down the sidewalk. It didn't help much.

The rain had started just after he'd left the school and he was already soaked to the skin. 'Just my luck to forget my umbrella on the one day it rains,' Yugi thought as he tried not to slip on the wet pavement. He'd carried one every day for the past week, since the skies over Domino City had been continually threatening rain.

'Oh well, at least Téa isn't getting wet too.' He and Téa normally walked to and from school together, but she had dance class each Tuesday so her mother had picked her up to take her there. She'd offered to give Yugi a lift home along the way, but they'd been running late so Yugi hadn't liked to accept. Besides, it hadn't been raining then.

After what seemed like forever, Yugi finally turned into his street. The sight of the warm, welcoming light of the windows of the gameshop where Yugi lived with his mother and Grandfather caused Yugi to speed up his pace. That wasn't a good idea.

His sneaker slipped on a wet patch and Yugi cried out as he fell. He threw out his hand instinctively and yelped as it skidded across the pavement with a burning sensation. He hit the ground hard with his knee, hip and shoulder, then his head whipped forward and smacked into the sidewalk.

Yugi groaned weakly as his whole body was wrapped in pain. He lay still for a moment, but the rain was getting heavier and he knew he had to get up. When he tried to get to his feet though, his vision blurred alarmingly and his head ached before he had managed to do much more than lift it off the ground. He half sobbed/half groaned at the resulting ache, but Yugi refused to give in. He tried again, managing to get to his knees before the pain made him cry out. Gritting his teeth, he was finally able to drag himself to his feet and begin limping the rest of the way home. At the back of his mind, he could feel Yami anxiously trying to find out what had happened, but Yugi was so focused on getting home that he was unable to do more than reassure his friend with a soft, 'I'm okay.'

By the time he reached the back door, Yugi was shivering so badly from the cold rain that he could barely turn the door handle. He stumbled inside and let out a soft groan of relief at the warmth of the kitchen. A pot of some sort of soup was simmering on the stove and it smelled wonderful, but Yugi frowned as the aroma made his stomach churn slightly.

"Ah! Yugi! You're back! Oh my... Yugi! Whatever has happened to you?"

Yugi tried to focus on his Grandfather as the old man hurried towards him, but his eyes wouldn't obey. His vision was all blurry. "Grandpa..." Yugi's voice came out as a weak whisper. He tried to move, but his legs... no... his whole body... suddenly seemed as heavy as lead. With a soft sigh, Yugi collapsed into his Grandfather's arms.

- - -

He was the Flaming Swordsman... no, he was Salamandra, the magic flame within the Swordsman's sword. He was burning. He was blazing. He could feel the heat searing his skin. It was almost too much to bear. He was dimly aware of someone speaking, but he couldn't make out what they were saying. The fire racing through his body was roaring in his ears, blocking out the weak voices.

'Yugi. Yugi, can you hear me?' That voice wasn't weak. It was strong. Commanding. Familiar and yet... there was something odd about it.

"Y...Yami..." Yugi was vaguely aware that the weak little whisper was his.

'Yugi.' Relief filled the voice, but the strangeness was still there.

The other voices had stopped, but only for a moment. They started up again, louder than before but no clearer. Yugi whimpered as they echoed in his mind. They made his head ache. He wished they'd stop again. He wished Yami would talk to him again. He needed Yami.

'It is all right Yugi. I am here.' The voices grew louder for a moment, but then faded away to silence. A wonderful cool sensation began to spread over Yugi's forehead. Yugi sighed softly and focused on the coolness.

"Yami." He was pleased to note that his voice was a little stronger.

'I am here. Sleep now, my light.'

As Yugi slipped off into dreamless sleep, he realised what was so strange about Yami's voice. He wasn't used to hearing such gentle concern in it.

- - -

Solomon Moto sighed in relief as he closed his daughter-in-law's bedroom door. He had thought she'd never calm down. Still, he reminded himself, it wasn't every day that a mother, especially one with no idea that magic really existed, witnessed her son dividing into two forms while he lay feverish in bed. To then be told by the second Yugi that he would care for the ill Yugi himself... Well it had been quite a shock to her.

Solomon grinned wryly as he headed down the hall to Yugi's room. He'd been rather shaken by Yami's appearance himself at first, and he had known of his existence!

Yugi had told him about the spirit of the Millennium Puzzle shortly after the whole Duelist Kingdom business, but Solomon hadn't really believed him. He'd thought it was merely one of Yugi's odd little games. He certainly hadn't expected to actually come face to face with the mysterious 'Yami', especially not in that particular situation!

For a moment, he'd been inclined to pull his vulnerable grandson away from the spirit. It had only been the way that Yugi had instantly calmed at Yami's light touch, and the gentle look in Yami's eyes as he had smiled down at Yugi, that had convinced Solomon of the spirit's good intentions. Even so, he had been hesitant to simply leave Yugi to Yami's care when the obviously irritated boy had demanded it. But Yugi's soft voice, and the way Yami had reacted to it, had eased his concerns. It was obvious that the two of them shared a special bond.

Solomon chuckled to himself. 'So... this is why Yugi's been acting so strangely lately.' It certainly explained a great deal.

He eased the door to Yugi's room open and peeked inside. What he saw made him grin. Yugi was tucked up in bed, sound asleep. His breathing was still a little strained due to the chill he'd sustained in the rain and his skin was still flushed with more than sleep, but he was no longer tossing and turning from the heat of his fever. That meant he was no longer groaning in pain from the injuries he'd sustained from what the doctor believed had been a bad fall on his way home. Yugi was also no longer rambling feverishly about Duel Monsters and shadowy realms. But it was the figure sitting with Yugi that had Solomon's attention.

During his fevered ramblings, Yugi had murmured all sorts of strange things about cards and magic and Pharaohs. He had kept referring to a 'spirit', until his mother had become quite distraught. But then he had calmed for a moment and his voice had been stronger and clearer when he had said one strange word. 'Yami.' No sooner had he spoken, then a shadowy figure had sat up from where Yugi was lying! The spirit had separated from Yugi and taken on solid form as Solomon and Mrs Moto had looked on in shock. He had then ordered them out of the room, stating that they were disturbing Yugi's rest. When Yugi's mother had argued that Yugi needed care, the spirit had agreed and declared that he would care for Yugi himself. It seemed that he had been as good as his word.

The spirit, who looked so much like Yugi, was sitting at the smaller boy's side, gently wiping the boy's face with a damp cloth. His other hand rested lightly on Yugi's in silent comfort. He tensed as Solomon tiptoed into the room, then glared at him. Before Yami could speak though, Solomon put a finger to his lips and motioned for the spirit to cross the room. He was pleased when Yami hesitated, clearly warring with himself over leaving Yugi's side. Eventually though, he stalked across the room with the graceful movements of someone comfortable and confident in their task, and obviously not entirely pleased at being interrupted.

"I thought I told you..."

Solomon smiled and Yami paused. "I just wanted to check on him... and to thank you. His mother and I weren't able to settle him, but you've managed it beautifully. The doctor said that he would be all right as long as he got the rest he needs. He couldn't rest while he was tossing and turning so much that he was causing himself pain."

Yami nodded stiffly. He turned to go back to Yugi, but hesitated. Without looking back he asked softly, "Do you know what happened to him? What is wrong with him?"

"You didn't hear what the doctor said?" Solomon was surprised.

"No. I was attempting to reach his mind at the time. I thought to calm him that way, but there was too much pain. I know only that he is hurt and ill."

"Ah. Well, we know he walked home from school. It looks as though he walked most of the way in the rain. He has a bad chill from it and needs to be kept warm, unfortunately the chill has also resulted in a high fever, so he also needs to be kept cool." Seeing the confusion in Yami's eyes, Solomon smiled reassuringly. "Just keep doing what you've been doing. When his fever rises, keep him cool with the wet cloths. When he shivers, tuck the blankets around him."

Solomon glanced over at the little figure in the bed and he sighed softly. "Apparently though, Yugi seems to have had a rather eventful afternoon. On his way home, it looks as though he had a bad fall. His wrist is sprained and he's badly bruised his knee, hip and shoulder. There's also a large bruise on the side of his head. The doctor believes Yugi is suffering from a mild concussion. He'll be fine, but he needs to rest. Oh, but he also needs to be woken every hour, to make sure that the concussion really is nothing serious."

As Solomon ran through everything the doctor had told him, he was pleased to note how intently Yami listened. When he was done, he regarded the spirit thoughtfully. "Are you certain you still want to look after him by yourself?"

Yami nodded. "Yes. I am certain," he confirmed quietly. He glanced over at the bed as its occupant groaned softly. Yugi was starting to toss and turn again. "I need to see to him now." Without another word, Yami strode back to Yugi's side and began lightly wiping a wet cloth over the boy's flushed face.

After watching for a moment, Solomon made a decision. He crossed over to the bed and smiled at Yami when he looked up warily. "If you need anything, I'll be downstairs."

Yami smiled slightly and inclined his head. "Thank you."

- - -

Late that night, Yami was worried. He'd thought that he'd managed to get Yugi settled comfortably, and he'd easily managed to keep him warm when he was chilled and cool when he was feverish, but the latest wave of fever was different. He couldn't seem to get Yugi cooled off this time. The boy was whimpering softly in pain and each cry was like a dagger in Yami's heart.

He dipped the washcloth back into the tepid water. As he lightly wrung it out, he studied Yugi carefully. The boy's face was creased with pain and he was panting heavily from the heat coursing through his body. Yami had even pulled the blanket down to Yugi's waist, but it hadn't made a difference. With a worried sigh, Yami moved to put the cloth on Yugi's forehead again. As he leaned over, he placed his other hand on Yugi's chest to steady himself. He gasped when he realised how wet Yugi's pajama shirt was. It took him only a moment to realise what had happened and he cursed himself for a fool. Of course Yugi's pajamas were wet. Hadn't Yugi been sweating badly every time his fever rose?

Yami hesitated, wondering what to do. He knew it was a bad idea for Yugi to be in wet pajamas, but dry pajamas wouldn't stay dry for very long. Considering how wet Yugi's pajama shirt was, his sheets were probably soaked as well. That was easily dealt with though. Yami had a little trick he'd picked up from Bakura that would take care of it nicely. But the pajamas were still a problem. After a moment's thought, Yami decided to see how bad the situation was before he came up with a plan to deal with it.

He gently eased the younger boy into his arms and sat him up, shocked at how hot Yugi's fevered skin felt. After a moment's consideration, Yami unbuttoned the pajama shirt and took it off, leaving Yugi bare to the waist. His skin was slick with sweat, so Yami began lightly wiping the sheen off with the cool cloth. As he wiped it across Yugi's chest, the boy sighed softly and relaxed for the first time since the wave of fever had struck. Encouraged, Yami dampened the cloth again.

As he wiped Yugi down, Yami manipulated his Shadow Magic in the same way that Bakura did when he was particularly angry. He then directed the resulting blast of hot air onto the sheet. When he finally eased Yugi back down onto the mattress, the boy's cooler skin met with dry sheets.

"Yugi..." Yami sighed softly in relief as the wave of fever finally turned and Yugi started to shiver. He quickly pulled the blanket up and gently tucked it in. His hand reached out and lightly brushed the spiky bangs back from the boy's face. "My poor light."

- - -

The next bout of fever was even worse. Again, Yami ended up cradling Yugi in his arms while he used Bakura's hot air trick to dry the sheet beneath the boy. He also ended up sponging Yugi's chest and arms down twice, since it was the only thing that seemed to work. When the heat began to leave Yugi's body though, Yami made a mistake. Instead of immediately covering Yugi up again, Yami, thinking the fever wasn't going down far enough, decided to sponge him down for a third time. The cool water quickly made Yugi shiver with cold, but as Yami was still holding him in his arms, he didn't realise what was happening. Yugi was warm against him from their combined body heat, but Yami wasn't used to having a body, let alone a warm one, so he thought that Yugi was still feverish. By the time he realised the truth, Yugi was almost blue with cold.

"Yugi! I'm so sorry..." Yami was as close to panic as he ever got as he tucked the blanket around the boy. Yugi was shivering so badly that he was whimpering in pain from his injuries.

'I need to warm him, but he must also remain still. If he continues to move like that, he could injure himself further. There must be a way!' Yami's clever mind saw the obvious solution immediately.

Thankful that he was wearing simple cotton pajamas rather than his usual buckles and leather, Yami slipped into the bed beside Yugi, careful not to jar the injured boy in the process. He winced at the feel of Yugi's skin as it brushed his. It was so cold! 'This has to work!' Easing himself on to his side, Yami moved as close to Yugi as he could and carefully gathered the shivering boy into his arms. He held him close, sharing his warmth and, more importantly, keeping him completely still.

Each minute seemed like an eternity. Gradually though, Yugi's shivering eased and his body warmed. Yami relaxed at that point, but he didn't draw away. Instead, he shifted so he was holding Yugi more comfortably. The move brought his face in close to Yugi's. Yami hesitated, then brushed a light kiss against a pale cheek. His face flushed with embarrassment as he drew back again. 'Why did I do that?' He glanced at Yugi's face, so innocent and gentle in sleep, and sighed softly as he realised. 'He is my light. I am his yami. My heart is defenseless against him.'

- - -

The next morning, Solomon Moto quietly opened the door and glanced inside Yugi's room. He nodded to himself when he saw the two boys sleeping soundly by each other's side. 'Oh good, Yugi looks much better this morning. The spirit seems to have taken good care of him. Hopefully he'll be able to explain about Yami to his mother later. I really don't think she believed me last night...' With a slight smile, Solomon closed the door again.

On the bedside cabinet, where it had lain since Yugi's mother had removed it from around her son's neck the night before, the Millennium Puzzle glowed with a soft golden light that brushed over the faces of the two sleeping boys like a gentle kiss.

 

The End