the_goldenpath: made by <lj user="torakaka"> (Yu-Gi-Oh! - Puzzleshipping fics)
[personal profile] the_goldenpath
Title: Hold my prayers up to the sun
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh!
Characters: Yuugi x Yami no Yuugi (Atemu)
Prompt: #87, Life
Word count: approx. 25.000 in total
Rating: PG for shounen-ai.
Summary: AU. Store clerk Yuugi falls in love with museum curator Atemu Khalfani… two worlds apart, is it possible for love to conquer everything?
Author’s note: Unrepentant fluff. Characters are older, around 23-25 years. Made-up surname for Atemu. No money is made off of this. Feedback is greatly appreciated. Written for entertainment purposes only.

Key: ----- = scene change




-----------------------------



“So… this means I get a few days off, right?” Malik asked. Ishizu rolled her eyes and then frowned at him. Even Rishid looked a bit disapproving. “Hey, it was worth the try!”

“You shouldn’t profit from one another’s misfortune, Malik,” Ishizu said. “Besides, you do realize that I am your supervisor in absence of ustaaz Khalfani, don’t you?”

Malik pulled such a horror-stricken look that Yuugi couldn’t help it, he had to laugh. Ishizu put her hand on her brother’s shoulder. “Your first task will be cleaning and dusting behind all the display cases of the exhibit.”

Grumbling, Malik put his tea aside and crossed his arms in front of his chest. Pouting, he glared from under his bangs at his sister. Ishizu ignored him and addressed Yuugi instead.

“Did the doctor say something in particular? The museum will reimburse your expenses, of course.”

“Don’t worry, Ishizu-san,” Yuugi said. He didn’t want to hear about any reimbursement. “It was my fault. It was very late, he was tired and distracted…”

He tumbles down the stairs and you think it’s your fault?” Malik looked at him incredulously.

“It’s not a matter of who’s at fault,” Ishizu said, calm and composed as usual. “I don’t think it was anyone’s fault to begin with. These things happen.”

Yuugi was comforted by Ishizu’s friendly words. He had notified the Ishtars of Atemu’s accident as soon as he had been able to reach them. “After the ambulance arrived, the emergency workers thought it wasn’t serious enough to take Atemu-san to the hospital. They didn’t want him to move too much though, so I had them take him to our guestroom instead. A concussion and a sprained ankle, nothing worse, fortunately. I really thought he had broken his leg.”

“He was lucky to have you around,” Ishizu said. “To get immediate help, I mean. I know he’s in good hands. Thank you for calling us.”

“Thank you for coming over,” Yuugi said. “I’m so sorry for the inconvenience.”

“Is there anything we can do for you?” Ishizu asked. “I can leave Rishid here to help you out. We can take care of groceries and household chores, if you want us to?”

The thought of Ishizu, Malik or Rishid cleaning the house and cooking dinner was too much for Yuugi to bear. “No, no, it’s fine! I’m sure I can manage, and you have your own work to attend to. I hope it’s not a problem that Atemu-san stays here.”

“I’ll let his host know that he’s staying at your place for the time being. He’s not going to go home for at least a week, I take it? Concussions are a bad thing, and a sprained ankle to boot… no, we should give ustaaz Khalfani all the time he needs to recover.” She tilted her head. “What about you, Yuugi? You haven’t slept all night, you look worn out.”

“It’s been a very eventful night,” Yuugi admitted. After spending so much time reconstructing the artifact, Atemu falling down the stairs, waiting for the ambulance and calming his mother and grandfather down, who were also very much in shock, the last of his energy had been spend and he could feel fatigue claiming him. “I’d like to get some sleep, but not before I checked up on our patient.”

“I’ll walk with you,” Ishizu offered. “Rishid? Malik? You stay here and wait for me to return.” She didn’t await their answers, if any, and accompanied Yuugi to the guestroom. He hesitated before opening the door. “Ishizu-san, can I ask you something..?”

“Of course. What is it?”

“What does ya inta mabsuut mean? I’m not sure if I’m pronouncing it correctly.”

Ishizu arched an elegant eyebrow. “He said that? It’s a bit of a dialect, but mabsuut means ‘happy, joy’. Ya inta mabsuut can be roughly translated into ‘I’m very happy’.”

“Probably because we managed to solve the artifact,” Yuugi said. He heaved a sigh.

“Don’t give up,” Ishizu encouraged him. “Walls that have been building for years can’t be brought down within a few days. Though I must say, you’re succeeding very well at getting through his defenses.”

“I don’t think so, Ishizu-san,” Yuugi said, downtrodden. “I thought I was talking to him on a real personal level, but all he could think of was that darn pyramid… puzzle.”

“He focused on solving the pyramid as to not think about the loss of his father,” Ishizu said gently. “Give it a good night’s rest. You’re exhausted.”

Yuugi didn’t answer and opened the door. The guestroom was located at the back of the building and the emergency workers had closed the curtains before they left. Yuugi moved the curtains just a little, to allow a small ray of light to enter the room, revealing Atemu in the bed, eyes closed.

“Is he unconscious?” Ishizu asked, concerned.

“No, I think he’s fallen asleep,” Yuugi whispered in return. He had barely finished his sentence or Atemu shifted a little, opening his eyes slowly.

“I’m glad to see you awake, ustaaz Khalfani,” Ishizu said. “How are you feeling?”

Atemu turned his head towards her, eyes bleary and unfocused. “Ah, Ishizu,” he said after a long moment, voice slightly wavering. “Are you here to take me to the museum?”

“No, not at all. You’re going to stay here for a while,” Ishizu said sternly. “You have a concussion and a sprained ankle. Didn’t they you to take it easy?”

“They?” Atemu repeated.

“The men who were here, the emergency workers,” Yuugi reminded him. “It doesn’t matter,” he said as Atemu didn’t show any sign of remembering. “Ishizu-san’s right. You’re going to stay here for a while.”

“I have to work,” Atemu said and he plucked at the bed sheets. “The puzzle…”

“It waited for millennia, it can wait for another week.” Yuugi took Atemu’s hands again and moved them away from the blanket.

“My chest… it feels heavy,” Atemu said. Yuugi shifted his hands to the upside-down pyramid, folding Atemu’s fingers around the edges of the artifact.

“I know it’s important to you,” Yuugi said without any resentment or reproach. “I looped a piece of rope through it, so you can wear it around your neck. See? Now you can keep it with you all the time.”

“It is not mine to keep,” Atemu said, but he didn’t take it off. His movements were uncoordinated because of his concussion, and he sank back into the pillows again.

“You should rest,” Yuugi said.

“The museum… I…”

“The board of directors wishes you to get well,” Ishizu said. “They don’t expect to see you back until you’re fully recovered.”

“Not another word,” Yuugi said when he saw Atemu opening his mouth to retort. “You’re going to get some rest. I don’t want to hear another peep out of you.”

It was quite satisfying to see Atemu obey him, even though Yuugi guessed it was the concussion that made the other meek and obedient. He made sure that Atemu was comfortable and he closed the curtains before he left the guestroom with Ishizu. He couldn’t suppress a yawn, he was ready for bed himself. The Ishtars said their goodbyes and Yuugi didn’t waste another minute to get some sleep.


----------------------------------------



The next week was quite different from Yuugi’s usual routine. The Ishtars came frequently over and Yuugi was grateful for their help. Malik brought some of Atemu’s personal belongings and clothes, along with his smart phone and other work-related items, much to Yuugi’s dismay. He didn’t want the curator to get back to work that quickly, but he knew he couldn’t stop him. The Ishtars were kind enough to help out with groceries, cooking and cleaning and Rishid took care of chores around the house, even fixing a couple of things like a leaky faucet and a stuck window. Jounouchi and Honda dropped in for a visit and Yuugi finally confessed everything to them, sharing the tale of the embarrassing situation when he’d been removed from Atemu’s office.

“No way! And... he’s here right now?” Jounouchi asked, eyes wide. He pointed upstairs, towards the ceiling. “As in, right above us?”

“Yes, he’s in the guestroom,” Yuugi said.

Jounouchi was baffled. “I know you’re a kind person who believes in second chances, Yuugi, but…”

“He didn’t do anything wrong, Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi said.

“I would’ve shipped him off to the hospital,” the other muttered. “Sheesh!”

“Say, you didn’t ‘help’ matters by pushing him down the stairs, did you?” Honda asked.

“Honda-kun! Of course not!” Yuugi blushed furiously at the thought. Honda grinned at him.

“But does this mean things are going..? I mean, between you two?” Jounouchi inquired curiously.

Yuugi’s face faltered. While taking care of the curator, Yuugi hadn’t pressed any personal matters. He wanted Atemu to recover and not bother him with all kinds of emotional, personal stuff. Besides, when his health permitted, Atemu was extremely busy with writing all kinds of press releases about the huge discovery of the pyramid-puzzle and how it had been solved. The artifact still dangled from his neck, it was kind of weird to imagine him without it. Yuugi let him be. He didn’t know what to do with his feelings, having Atemu so close yet so distant. It was even harder to deal with the looks his mother and grandfather were giving him; they knew about his emotions obviously, and it hurt them to see Yuugi in pain, which made Yuugi feel even worse. He was glad he could spend his days at the Game Shop or at his accountant job, getting distracted by customers, colleagues or his friends.

“Nothing much, huh?” Honda said, interpreting Yuugi’s facial expression. He exchanged a look with Jounouchi. “Yuugi, listen. You’ve been extremely helpful and kind to this guy. And I’m sure deep down somewhere Atemu is a good person too, but… it takes two to make a relationship work, you know? It can’t be only you, pulling the cart. You can’t keep pouring energy into something that’s not going to work. We’d love to see you happy together, but right now all we see is a selfish… or rather, totally reclusive person who’s not willing or unable to contribute anything. And then there’s you, with lots of love and warmth, waiting for something to happen… waiting for someone to happen, a certain someone who’s never going to answer you.”

“It’s not like that, Honda-kun,” Yuugi shook his head. He respected his friends’ opinions and concerns, but he had the strong urge to defend Atemu. “He’s afraid of opening up his heart. Ishizu-san said that I was getting through his defenses.”

Jounouchi pursed his lips. “If you say so, Yuugi. But I swear, if he ever does something that hurts you, or if he’s playing some kind of game with you… then he’s going to meet these guys,” he said while holding up his balled fists.

“And mine,” Honda added.

“You’re always looking out for me,” Yuugi said. “Thank you. I’m sure we won’t have to resort to physical violence.” He changed the subject, just to be sure. “Jounouchi-kun, how’s your sister?”

Jounouchi was about to answer when Ishizu swept into the Game Shop, using the door that separated the store from the living quarters. The Ishtars had been present all day, and Yuugi had a hard time thinking up a suitable way to express his gratitude for all the help they provided. Ishizu recognized Jounouchi and Honda from their first, very brief visit to the museum and showed them a friendly smile.

“Yuugi,” she said, “I’m about to serve tea… I thought it would be nice if we could have some in the living room? Rishid will get your grandfather and ustaaz Khalfani, and Jounouchi, Honda, you’re very welcome to join us.”

“That would be wonderful, Ishizu-san,” Yuugi said. He looked at his friends. “What do you think?”

“Sounds good to me!” Jounouchi slapped Yuugi on the shoulder. “Is there something to eat as well?”

“Jounouchi!” Honda said, appalled. Ishizu hid her laughter behind her hand.

“We do have some Egyptian sweets,” she said. While she explained the nature of the sweets, Yuugi closed up shop, turning the ‘open’ sign around into ‘closed’. It hadn’t been busy with customers today, which wasn’t uncommon for a Thursday afternoon.

In the living room, Yuugi’s mother and Malik had finished setting the table with all the necessities for the tea ceremony. Jounouchi couldn’t wait to get his hands on the food, but he was polite enough as to greet Yuugi’s grandfather first.

“You’re looking well, Sugoroku-jii-chan,” he said.

“Thank you, Jounouchi, it’s good to see you too,” the elderly man answered. “Things have been lively as of late, that’s for sure.” Ever since his visit to the national museum, Sugoroku felt much better. His health had improved and his eyes twinkled with the same mirth as they used to. He was far from being his old self, but he wasn’t as frail as before. Ishizu came into the room with the large teapot, followed by Rishid who carried Atemu bridal-style. The curator looked really embarrassed, his cheeks an unnatural red. Rishid settled him down on a seat opposite the sofa, completely undisturbed.

“Are you still in pain, Atemu-san?” Jounouchi tried to strike up a conversation, even using an honorific, which he rarely did.

“I am fine, thank you,” Atemu answered. “The doctor applied a brace to my ankle.” He wiggled his right feet. “It is a slight stinging pain, but it is manageable.”

“Are you going back to work soon?”

“I hope to return to my office very soon, yes.” Atemu raised his hands to take the teacup Ishizu handed him. “Thank you, Ishizu.”

Ustaaz Khalfani will await doctor’s orders first,” she said, quite sternly. “The board of directors also strongly recommended him to work on his full recovery first.”

“Good health is so important,” Jounouchi agreed.

“Shizuka-chan has had very extensive eye surgery, hasn’t she?” Yuugi asked.

“My sister,” Jounouchi elaborated for Atemu and the Ishtars, who didn’t know who Shizuka was. “She got recently married, but when she was young, her eyesight failed her. She was slowly turning blind while…” As Jounouchi was telling the story of his sister, Yuugi noticed that Atemu was listening attentively. The conversation went from health to lighter, less grave topics until the Game Shop was mentioned and from there, it was a small leap to Duel Monsters.

“Ah, the game Malik introduced me to,” Atemu said. “He bought me a starter’s deck.”

“Really? You play Duel Monsters?” Jounouchi reacted enthusiastically.
“I have studied the rules, but I have not played the game yet,” Atemu confessed. “Yuugi was going to teach me… ah, before the accident occurred.”

“No problem, I can teach you! I learned everything from Yuugi, so basically he’s teaching you too!”

The rest of the crowd burst out in laughter and from then, the atmosphere was relaxed and amicable. After a while, Atemu withdrew into himself. The curator had barely recovered from his concussion, and the noise and excitement from everyone in the fairly small living room was tiring him out. Yuugi, sitting next to Rishid, gently nudged the eldest male Ishtar. When Rishid leaned into him, Yuugi asked in a hushed tone if he would be as kind as to take Atemu upstairs again. Despite not speaking Japanese very well, Rishid had no trouble understanding the language and he got up, closing the distance between himself and Atemu. Without much effort, Rishid picked him up and carried him bridal style again, out of the living room. Atemu was too tired to say properly goodbye, but nobody was offended. Yuugi doubted that Atemu was still awake before he reached the guestroom; he made a mental note to check up on him later. His eye fell on the clock on the wall and he almost shrieked; it had been two hours! He had to reopen the shop! Ishizu noticed his panic and said: “Go to your store, Yuugi, we’ll take care of this.”

“Ishizu-san, I…”

“Go on,” she shooed him, Jounouchi and Honda out of the living room, “you all have your jobs to return to. We’ll get back to the museum, too.”

Yuugi didn’t even try to protest anymore, he just thanked Ishizu and then went downstairs, back to the Game Shop.

“Man, that was some delicious tea,” Honda said.

“And I really loved those sweets! So tasty!” Jounouchi rubbed over his stomach.

“You should know, you finished the entire plate!”

“Don’t be so slow, then!”

Yuugi chuckled. He turned the shop’s sign over to ‘open’ again. Returning to his friends, he said as casually as possible: “Atemu-san was quite nice company, wasn’t he?”

“I almost didn’t recognize him,” Jounouchi said. “He looks so much younger without those huge golden earrings and his suit.”

“True,” Yuugi agreed. Ever since the accident, Atemu hadn’t worn his earrings, probably because of practical reasons. Wearing jewelry and expensive suits didn’t contribute to recovering from a concussion and a sprained ankle… it didn’t keep him from wearing the pyramid-puzzle, though.

“He was much more relaxed, yes,” Honda added. “And… I saw him stealing glances at you quite a few times.”

“Honda-kun!” Yuugi was mortified, but also... pleased. “He did?”

“Oh yes, don’t you worry about that! I saw him looking at you, as if he was silently checking if he was doing the right thing.”

“He knows how to behave around people,” Yuugi said.

“He knows how to behave around important and official bigwigs, hotshots, but not around normal people like you and me,” Honda said.

“That’s not entirely…” true, Yuugi had wanted to say, but Honda was right. The kind of distance that Atemu cultivated towards him, his mother and his grandfather wasn’t out of respect or fear, but out of simply not knowing how to interact with them. How lonely had he grown up as a child, as to not know how to get along with everyday people?

Jounouchi checked at his watch. “We have to go now, Yuugi, or our boss will be mad… but don’t forget, if he’s the one you want, we’ll stand by you all the way, all right?”

“All right,” Yuugi said. “Thank you for your support, guys. I can’t say it enough.”

“More takoyaki will do,” Jounouchi quipped. “If something happens, anything, you’ll give us a call, okay?”

Yuugi promised to do so and waved his friends goodbye, feeling grateful and hopeful.


------------------------------------



The early Saturday morning, Yuugi found himself vacuuming the first floor. His mother was busy with laundry and grocery shopping. Sugoroku didn’t help out much in the household, of course; even though he was more energetic, his age and health in general prohibited him from doing heavy chores. Yuugi didn’t know any better and he moved the vacuum cleaner around, onwards to the next room. Suddenly, he heard noise coming from the guestroom. He turned off the machine and listened. Yes, there it was again. Curiously, he knocked on the door.

“Atemu-kun? Are you all right?” No answer. Yuugi opened the door as silently as possible, not wanting to disturb the other, should he be asleep… but Atemu was standing in the middle of the room, trying to pick up a chair while avoiding putting any weight on his bad ankle.

“Oh, let me handle it.” Yuugi grabbed the chair and put it back up again. Atemu placed his hands on the back of the chair, regaining his balance.

“I am sorry,” he said.

“I didn’t know you were doing your exercises. Do you want me to help you?”

“No thank you, I am fine.”

“You’re making good progress,” Yuugi said.

Atemu nodded. “I am ready to go back to my host. I do not wish to burden you any longer.”

“You’re not a burden, Atemu-kun.” Only now Yuugi noticed that the other was wearing his earrings again. It reminded him of Jounouchi’s comment on how much younger Atemu had looked without the jewelry. “It’s been just a week. You need your time to recover.”

“I must return to the museum. I have to announce this magnificent discovery to the world.”

“Please, Atemu-kun,” Yuugi said. Leave that puzzle thing be.

“Yes?”

“I… I can take you to your host,” Yuugi said. “I mean, you have to give me the address. I’ll give Jounouchi-kun a call, so he can drive us.”

“You do not own a car?”

“Unfortunately, no.”

“I see. I can call a taxi.”

Do you want to leave that badly? Yuugi looked downtrodden. On the other hand, he couldn’t ‘keep’ Atemu here, no matter how much he wanted to. “Use one of jii-chan’s walking canes,” he suggested. “You can’t put weight on your ankle for that long.”

Atemu looked a little embarrassed, as if Yuugi had caught him in the act. Yuugi didn’t give it any second thought and he bustled out of the room to grab one of his grandfather’s canes. He selected a dark brown one and went back into the guestroom again. “Wouldn’t you like to wait until tomorrow?” he asked, one last time.

“No, thank you,” Atemu answered. “There is a lot of work I have to do.” His hand cradled the pyramid-puzzle possessively. Yuugi heaved a mental sigh. He couldn’t stop him, and maybe it was for the better. The situation was getting painful, and maybe, subconsciously, Atemu felt that as well, interpreting it as overstaying his welcome.

“I’ll call Jounouchi-kun,” he said. “No need to spend money on an expensive taxi.” Before Atemu could protest, Yuugi went ahead. He was glad he could keep himself busy so that the other wouldn’t see he was on the verge of crying. Why did it feel so cruel, why did it feel like something precious was slipping through his fingers? And why, why wasn’t Atemu aware of how precious he was? If Jounouchi noticed how thick and stifled Yuugi’s voice was on the phone, he didn’t mention it and happily accepted the request to play chauffeur again. He’d be over in fifteen minutes, which was enough time to pack Atemu’s things. Yuugi asked his grandfather for permission to use one of his suitcases, which was no problem either.


----------------------------------



“So, what’s the address of your host?” Jounouchi said as he leaned backwards, his hands on the steering wheel. “I know every street in Domino City!”

Atemu finished buckling his seatbelt, fidgeting a little. “Kaiba Mansion,” he said. Both Yuugi and Jounouchi held their breath. Of course the curator of the Ancient Egypt exhibit wouldn’t stay with just any ordinary host. Yuugi suddenly realized that the expensive game of senet Atemu had bought, had been a gift to Kaiba Mokuba, the youngest of the Kaiba brothers.

“Whoa,” was Jounouchi’s intelligent reaction.

“Kaiba has to be one of the main sponsors of the exhibit, then?” Yuugi asked. Atemu nodded.

“Yes, Ishizu was able to gain his interest for the exhibit. He does not care for ancient relics, but sponsorship of a cultural event is good exposure for his company.”

“Sounds like Kaiba, indeed.” Jounouchi turned the keys to start the car. “All right, let’s go to his Mansion.”

Yuugi looked in the rearview mirror, keeping an eye on Atemu on the backseat. The curator held his hand loosely on the suitcase next to him, his other hand cupped on the Puzzle. Yuugi almost started to hate the thing, but he knew what it represented. These were probably the last minutes he was going to spend in Atemu’s company. He could see that the other’s vulnerability was gone, hiding behind and firmly replaced by that invisible wall, as if anything he has shared with Yuugi, had been for naught. It saddened him, but there was nothing he could do about it now. Yuugi lowered his head a little, unaware of Jounouchi’s quizzical look, before he turned his attention back to the road again. Driving to the Kaiba Mansion didn’t take much longer than fifteen minutes, and Jounouchi pulled up to the large iron gate.

“Yes?” a voice crackled through the intercom system.

“Jounouchi Katsuya and Mutou Yuugi,” Jounouchi said. "We’re here to deliver Atemu… ehh, what’s
his surname again?”

“Khalfani,” Yuugi provided.

“… Atemu Khalfani back to his host,” Jounouchi finished his sentence.

“Please proceed,” the voice said and the gate went open.

“Neat,” Jounouchi said as he drove along the majestic lane, admiring the impeccable front lawn.
“You can fit entire Domino City in here!”

Yuugi wondered how much Kaiba spent on landscaping; not a single leaf was out of its place and the grass was cut with military precision. Finally, Jounouchi drove up to the large stairs leading up to the Mansion, where a horde of maids, dressed in pristine black dresses with white aprons, had flocked together along with a butler and a man in a grey suit. It wasn’t Kaiba himself, but the man looked stern enough to mimic the CEO of KaibaCorp.. As soon as Jounouchi halted the car, the butler and the man in the grey suit moved forward and opened the doors.

“Khalfani-sama, good to see you again,” he said.

“Thank you, Isono,” Atemu said and shifted his legs to step out of the car, totally forgetting about his bad ankle.

“Careful!” Yuugi yelled out just as Atemu lost his balance, but Isono was quick enough to catch him before he could fall.

“Careful, Khalfani-sama!” He scolded him, albeit gently. “Take it easy.”

Yuugi stepped out of the car, glad that nobody was pointing out his physical alikeness to Atemu. He felt out of place, confronted with this much splendor.

“Jounouchi-san, Mutou-san?” Isono addressed them. “Would you care to follow me into the mansion?”

“No problem,” Jounouchi said and took out Atemu’s suitcase. The butler reached for it, but Jounouchi made a gesture that it wasn’t heavy and it was no problem for him to carry it. Everyone went inside the mansion, keeping up with Atemu’s slower pace.

“Seto-sama has arranged for a medical team on stand-by, should it be necessary,” Isono said as they walked down the hallway. Yuugi and Jounouchi were totally blown away by all this wealth and luxury.

“That will not be necessary,” Atemu replied, “I am fine, really. Yuugi and his family have taken great care of me.”

Yuugi blushed at the compliment. So Atemu had noticed! Of course, the curator wasn’t that much of a robot, was he?

“I’m glad,” Isono said. “This way, Khalfani-sama. I took the liberty of relocating you to another room so you won’t have to walk that far.”

Yuugi was a little disturbed. Not because of Isono, but because of the mansion. He didn’t know Kaiba personally, but the mansion breathed the same solitude that Atemu had condemned himself to. At least Kaiba had his younger brother, but Atemu had no one in this huge mansion that showed barely any personal touch. Yuugi and Jounouchi followed Isono until they reached tall, double doors which the man opened, allowing everyone to enter.

“Whoa,” Jounouchi said again. Yuugi’s jaw went slack; this room was as large as the entire Game Shop building! He couldn’t believe his eyes. Such luxury! Even though the room was modestly furnished, each piece was handcrafted and beautifully designed, wonderfully fitting in the very spacious and comfortable environment. One of the maids opened up the curtains so daylight fell in, whereas another maid had managed to pry the suitcase from Jounouchi’s fingers without him noticing, and busied herself with unpacking. The third maid maneuvered a chair towards Atemu, so he could sit down.

“Your room is amazing, Atemu-kun,” Yuugi said.

“I think it’s for the best if we leave Khalfani-sama to rest for now,” Isono said. “Would you like some tea? Coffee?”

“I’d like a cup of coffee!” Jounouchi rubbed his hands at the thought of delicious java. Yuugi failed to pay attention to everyone leaving the room, including the maid who had unpacked Atemu’s suitcase in record time. Another maid had put his laptop and smart phone on the mahogany desk, close to the open window and next to two framed pictures. Yuugi walked over to the desk to take a closer look, his curiosity piqued. The picture on the right showed a young Atemu with a stern, tall man who had to be his father; Yuugi could see it because of the unique eye color they shared. The man had a very regal attitude to him, yet his hands on Atemu’s shoulders were such a tender sign of affection that it took the sharp edges out of the static photograph. Atemu had to be around fifteen, trying to look just as stern as his father, his features still boyish. The picture to the left endeared Yuugi, showing Atemu and his father in a rare moment of relaxation. Taken somewhere on a beach - or perhaps in the desert? - and next to his father, the smile on Atemu’s face was so warm, so bright and so kind that it touched Yuugi’s soul deeply. He longed to see that smile on Atemu’s face again, and it hurt him that he didn’t know how.

“Your father is a wonderful man,” Yuugi said as he turned around. Atemu was leaning on his cane, keeping an eye on Yuugi, but he turned his head a little away as soon as the other looked at him.

“Yes, he is,” he finally said. “He was.”

“These are wonderful pictures,” Yuugi said, ignoring Atemu’s correction as he didn’t know how to react. “I’m so sorry he passed away, Atemu-kun.” He recalled Ishizu telling him that Atemu had accompanied the Ishtars to Domino City to oversee the Ancient Egyptian exhibit, but Yuugi realized that the curator had all but fled Cairo, as to not be reminded of his father’s passing. As Atemu didn’t answer, Yuugi desperately tried to think up another topic of conversation. He saw a big, black suitcase standing in the corner of the room, in the obvious shape of a musical instrument.

“I didn’t know you played music,” he said. To his relief, that got a reaction out of Atemu. He retrieved the big case and laid it down on the floor, carefully. He clicked the suitcase open and pushed at the lid, revealing a cello.

“Amazing.” Yuugi took a seat as Atemu picked up the bow and sat down himself, positioning the cello properly. Breathlessly, Yuugi watched his every movement. Atemu put his fingers on the fingerboard and moved the bow over the strings. A deep, almost menacing chord was pulled from the instrument, filling the room with an ominous sound. It sent chills down Yuugi’s spine, as it sounded like a wail coming from the heart, a cry of someone in peril, a desperate howl… but then the tone went up, higher, and the wail became a song. Yuugi had very little knowledge of classical music, but he listened with rapt fascination. More so, he looked at Atemu with even more fascination: the movement of his long, slender fingers plucking at the strings, the ease with which he moved the bow, eliciting the beautiful music from the instrument effortlessly, and how he was totally lost in the music himself. His eyes were closed, not in utmost concentration, but in fascination and attention to the music.

Yuugi wished this moment could last forever. Atemu was playing for him, not to show off his amazing skills, but to show him something… to share this beautiful moment with him, meant the world to Yuugi. He tried to understand; what was Atemu telling him? This wonderful music, melancholic yet enchanting, it had to be his way to try to make something clear. If he could, Yuugi would’ve grasped the notes and cherished them, keeping them close to his heart and listen to them over and over again. Yuugi tried to memorize the music, taking it all in and basking in the intimacy of the moment until Atemu slowly halted the bow and the last of the notes died away. Yuugi blinked a few times, he’d almost been crying from the beauty and the sheer intensity of the moment.

“That was beautiful,” he complimented him. “You’re very talented, Atemu-kun.” He thought the curator was going to say something, but Atemu remained silent, the bow leaning against the bridge, his posture slightly slumped. Yuugi got up from his chair and gently took the instrument from Atemu. He put it back into its large case and closed it after carefully adding the bow next to the instrument, making sure it was in a secure position. Yuugi carried the case back to its original place in the corner. When he was done, he focused on Atemu again.

“You’re tired,” he said. “You should rest.” He held out his hand, and his heart skipped a beat when Atemu took it. He pulled him up. “Let’s go to your bedroom.”

“The sofa will do,” Atemu said, but Yuugi shook his head.

“No. You’re going to lie down.”

He guided Atemu to the adjacent room; to his relief it was indeed the bedroom, or else he would’ve felt pretty silly. It was as spacious and furnished in the same style as the other room, and Yuugi helped Atemu to sit down on the bed.

“Should I send someone over to help you?” he asked. Atemu hesitated, just for a second.

“No, I am all right. I just need to lie down, like you said.”

Yuugi nodded. “I’ll be on my way, then. I’ll tell Isono-san that you’re resting.” He turned around to leave, when Atemu called his name, voice soft.

“Yuugi, wait.”

“Yes?”

“I want to thank you for everything you have done for me.” Atemu’s striking crimson red eyes were harsh and yet so… fragile. All alone on that large bed with no one there to hold him, to comfort him, to be with him. Yuugi tried to keep his voice as neutral as possible.

“You’re very welcome, Atemu-kun,” he said. He waited a few moments in case Atemu was going to say more, but he held the pyramid-puzzle against his chest, lost in thoughts. Yuugi showed him another smile and left the bedroom.


----------------------------------



“The mansion is amazing,” Jounouchi said on their way back to the Game Shop. He was still chewing on a mouthful of daifuku. “And the kitchen! You should’ve seen the kitchen!”

“It was nice of Isono-san to show you around,” Yuugi admitted. He wasn’t really concerned that he missed out on something special, though. The music Atemu had played for him lingered in his mind and it meant much more to him than a tour of the Kaiba mansion.

“Yeah, he’s okay,” Jounouchi said. “Oh, before I forget, he asked me to give you this.” He pulled out an envelope from his jacket pocket and tossed it into Yuugi’s lap. “Why didn’t you come after us anyway? Did you want to talk to him?”

“Didn’t you hear the music?” Yuugi asked as he picked up the envelope. Jounouchi had both his hands on the steering wheel again and merely shrugged.

“We heard something, but well…”

“Yeah, I know. Only guitars, bass and drums for you.” Yuugi couldn’t help but laugh. Their taste in music was very different; Yuugi enjoyed contemporary pop songs, whereas Jounouchi liked his bands metal and loud. He fidgeted with the envelope and pulled out a rectangular piece of paper.

“What is it?” Jounouchi never hid his curiosity.

“I think… it’s a check,” Yuugi said, flabbergasted. “Signed by Kaiba Seto himself.”

“What?” Jounouchi was momentarily distracted and stared at Yuugi, instead of keeping his attention on traffic. “Why would Kaiba write you a check?”

He read the words in the description and heaved a sigh. “To cover my expenses,” he said, “for taking care of Atemu-kun.”

“Well, he’s treated like a prince, so why not behave like one?”

“That’s not fair, Jounouchi-kun.”

“Yuugi, if even Kaiba Seto walks on eggshells to accommodate Atemu… I mean, come on! He’s grown up in a wealthy environment, everyone throws money around him, he’s into arts and culture, he has been pampered all his life…”

“His mother died when he was young and he recently lost his father,” Yuugi blurted out. “Does that sound healthy and happy to you?”

Jounouchi lowered his head a little. “I didn’t know. I’m sorry.”

Yuugi felt bad about his outburst. He didn’t want to hurt or offend his friend. “I’m sorry too,” he apologized. “I know he doesn’t seem to be the… right one for me. I just…”

“Hey, you’re in love,” Jounouchi grinned at him, “and you’ve got it bad. Don’t mind me. When I first met Mai, I acted like a loon.”

“A romantic loon,” Yuugi reminded him. “How many roses did you send her again?”

“Five hundred,” Jounouchi muttered and hit the brakes as the sign turned red. “I had to eat instant ramen for months.”

Yuugi snickered. He put the check back in the envelope and tucked it into his pocket. He wasn’t going to cash it, no matter what others would think. The rest of the drive home was spent in comfortable silence and when they arrived at the Game Shop, Yuugi thanked Jounouchi.

“No problem,” he said. “If you need my services as a chauffeur again, you know where to find me.”

“I was just thinking,” Yuugi said, “would you like to come over for dinner soon? Together with Honda-kun? It’s been a while…”

“No takoyaki this time,” Jounouchi wagged a finger at him, “yakiniku, perhaps?”

Yuugi smiled. “That’s fine by me, Jounouchi-kun.”

“I’ll let you know when we come over,” Jounouchi said. He turned more serious. “Hey.. and if you want to talk about him… you know… you can call me anytime, all right?”

“I know,” Yuugi said. “Thank you for your support, Jounouchi-kun.”

He nodded. “I’ll get back to you about dinner. See ya!” He sped off, leaving Yuugi at the door of the Game Shop, waving at him until he was out of sight.


-------------------------------------------



Saturday was always a busy day, or so Sugoroku thought as he left the kitchen. His daughter was occupied with the laundry and grocery shopping, his grandson with vacuuming, doing dishes and everything else in the household. His thoughts trailed off to Yuugi. He surely had been busy with their aloof guest all week after that unfortunate accident. Sugoroku had his own thoughts about Atemu, but he kept them to himself. Yuugi was deeply in love with the man, and he would support any choice his grandson would make. First love could be beautiful, but also rough. The most important thing was Yuugi’s happiness. It had been quite a surprise when he confessed that he loved a man, but Sugoroku didn’t care about the sex of Yuugi’s life partner. His wellbeing and happiness was what counted, and nothing else. The elderly man heard sounds coming from the living room.

“Yuugi? Is that you? Are you back already?”

“Yes, I’m over here, jii-chan!” Yuugi’s voice sounded a little muffled and Sugoroku could see why when he entered the living room. Yuugi was up until his shoulders in the small cabinet where the family kept their CD and DVD collections.

“I never thought I’d see the day that you would rummage through my CD’s,” Sugoroku said, amused.
“Since when are you interested in classical music?”

Yuugi withdrew from the cabinet and held a few CD’s in his hands as he looked at his grandfather, grinning sheepishly.

“Atemu-kun plays the cello,” he said. “I figured that you had cello music in your collection.”

Sugoroku frowned slightly. “That’s not your taste in music at all, Yuugi. You have to stay true to yourself.”

“It was truly beautiful, jii-chan. I’d love to hear it again! I have the feeling that he didn’t play it for me just to show off. There was a message behind it, and I want to find out what.”

“Yuugi, your curator is a very handsome man,” Sugoroku said. “He has multiple doctorates and knows more about Pharaohs and ancient artifacts than anyone else in the world, is well-versed in art and literature and classical music… Yuugi, you’re a store clerk, an accountant, a caretaker of your old grandfather. You like J-pop and board games. I don’t want you to grow obsessed over him.”

“I’m not obsessed,” Yuugi said. “I… I love him.” The small stack of CD’s slipped from his fingers. “I love him, jii-chan… what am I supposed to do?”

“To be yourself,” the elderly man answered. “To be Yuugi, to be who you are. Love is a part of life, it’s a part of growing up. It’s complicated and kind at the same time. Bittersweet, yet rewarding and fulfilling. We humans can’t live without love. It’s terribly difficult and the most beautiful thing in the world.”

“I just want someone to hold,” Yuugi said.

“I understand. But that someone has to be the right one for you.”

“Jii-chan… I want someone as a partner and a lover, not someone who sees me as just a friend, or a child, or a grandchild. Someone equal, someone I can talk to, someone I can take care of, someone who’ll protect me, someone who’ll be with me.”

“I have to admit it’s not easy for you, Yuugi. You love someone who…”

“I know,” Yuugi said, rudely. “I know, jii-chan. Jounouchi-kun keeps telling me the same. You don’t want to see me hurt, you don’t want to see me in pain. We’re from two different worlds and I shouldn’t set myself up for constant rejection.” He locked eyes with his grandfather. “But if I don’t do this, if I don’t try, I’ll be sure to end up in pain. I want to give him a chance. He deserves it.”

“You deserve it too,” Sugoroku said as he flipped through the CD’s and pulled one out. “A chance at love, that is. Here you are. Try this one.”

Yuugi stared at the CD. “Suite No.1 in G major, Johan Sebastian Bach,” he said. “How…?”

“I’m sure Atemu-kun is a talented cellist,” Sugoroku said. “This is one of Bach’s well-known pieces, and he played it especially for you.”

“Thank you, jii-chan.” Yuugi held the CD, enthralled. Sugoroku tilted his head a little.

“You know, I feel much better as of late. I think I can work a morning or an afternoon at the Game Shop again.”

“Oh no, I don’t want to hear about it! You have to watch your health…”

“I’ll take Monday afternoon and Wednesday morning,” Sugoroku said, undisturbed. “That leaves you more time for yourself. You’re working two jobs, you help out in the household and you’ve got more to do than taking care of others all the time. You have to think about yourself too.”

“Jii-chan, no, I…”

“I’ll let you know if I can’t handle it after all. I want you to take a step back and focus on yourself, Yuugi.” Sugoroku patted him on the back. “Listen to your music, I’m sure you’ll find it relaxing. Remember though, we can’t always solve other people’s problems, and you can’t take his weight of the world on your shoulders.”

“I understand,” Yuugi said. “Oh! Before I forget, Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun are coming over for dinner, if that’s okay with you?”

“You never need to ask. And you know that your curator is always welcome here, too.”

“His name is Atemu, jii-chan.”

“Yes, yes, don’t mind an old man…” He turned around to leave.

“Jii-chan, wait!” Yuugi got up from the floor and all but jumped at his grandfather to give him a big hug. Sugoroku returned the gesture, surprised.

“Yuugi..?”

“I don’t want to lose you,” Yuugi said. “Just the thought… of you or kaa-san leaving… Atemu-kun lost all his family already, I just can’t imagine how lonely he must feel.”

“You have a kind and great heart, Yuugi,” Sugoroku said. “If there’s anyone who can get through to him, it’s you.”

Finding comfort in his grandfather’s words, Yuugi grew even more determined. It wasn’t too late to show Atemu love and kindness, no matter how distant and cold the curator’s heart had grown due to the losses in his life. He would provide him with love, a new family and friends, and bring that wonderful, warm smile back again.


---------------------------------------



“So she hands Honda her phone number! Honda!” Jounouchi grinned as he put a few more slices of beef on the electric grill. The entire kitchen smelled deliciously of the several foods being cooked and Yuugi enjoyed himself tremendously in the company of his friends. His mother and grandfather had eaten ahead, leaving the kitchen to Yuugi and his friends, not wanting to interrupt their get-together. Honda poked Jounouchi in his side.

“Hey! You promised me you wouldn’t tell this!”

“Com’on, this is too good not to tell,” Jounouchi said. “Anyway, she gives him her phone number, and he calls…”

“Don’t you dare say it!” Honda hissed.

“It was an automatic reject line!” Jounouchi laughed.

“Oh, but that’s just cruel, Honda-kun, I’m so sorry!” Yuugi hid a small laugh behind his hand, not to mock Honda, but because of Jounouchi’s comical facial expressions. He did feel sorry for his friend. “Why would she do that?”

“I keep telling him, he’s coming on too strong,” Jounouchi said. “Women don’t like it if you’re so desperate! He’s been like this ever since my sister got married.”

“I’m a much better party than her boring husband,” Honda grumbled. He turned a few bell peppers over. The electric grill was his, the Mutou household didn’t have one. Yuugi had taken care of the meat and vegetables, Jounouchi had brought the drinks. They were all in a good mood, exchanging stories about work and life in general. Yuugi told them that his grandfather wanted to work at the Game Shop again, and they agreed that Sugoroku should take better account of his health... the subject of Egyptian curators was painstakingly avoided and Yuugi wasn’t thinking about Atemu right now, talking and laughing with Jounouchi and Honda. He didn’t hear the knocking at first, until his mother stuck her head around the door.

“Yuugi-kun?”

“Yes, kaa-san?”

“I’m sorry to interrupt you, but Atemu-san is on TV,” she said. “Would you like to watch?”

“He’s on TV?” Yuugi parroted, dumbfounded.

“It’s about that golden pyramid thing he’s always wearing,” she said.

“Let’s go watch,” Jounouchi said as he plucked his beef from the grill, loading up his plate to take it with him. “It won’t take too long, will it?”

“I doubt it,” Yuugi said and jumped from his chair, unable to contain his curiosity.

“Hey, wait for me!” Honda quickly gathered his plate and utensils and hurried after the others.

Sugoroku didn’t mind that all the youngsters flooded into the living room. Yuugi sat down on the floor, crossing his legs as he gaped at the TV-screen. It was Atemu all right, conducting an interview with the amassed press; the camera focused a few times on the golden pyramid dangling on a chain from his neck, before zooming in on his face again.

“Yes, it truly is the biggest discovery since Tutankhamen’s tomb,” he said. “This is a personal artifact and belongs to a Pharaoh we have not been able to identify yet. I have faith that the entire archaeological world will put their efforts together to study and observe this magnificent Puzzle, so we can find out its meaning and purpose.”

“Why do you call it a puzzle?” a reporter wanted to know.

“It had to be pieced together,” Atemu answered patiently. “When it was discovered, we could not determine its shape or form. It took great time and intense pains to figure out how it all fitted together. I could never have done this alone.”

“He’s not looking very well,” Yuugi said.

“He looks fine to me,” Honda commented. “Expensive suit, fancy gold, all the attention in the world. Why do you think otherwise, Yuugi?”

“It’s in his eyes.” Yuugi was glued to the TV-screen. Yes, at first sight Atemu looked fine indeed: handsome, poised, calm as he continued to answer all the questions the reporters fired at him. Taking a closer look, Yuugi could see behind the composure; a little anxiety, some discomfort, and still the loneliness and grief. If only he could stand there, next to Atemu, and lend him his strength…

“I will be traveling to international destinations, museums and exhibits to show this magnificent artifact,” the curator said. Yuugi had missed the question. “The United States, Japan, Europe and of course my homeland of Egypt are very interested in this discovery of unlimited proportions.”

“Well, it suffices to say that his job is very different from ours.” Honda scratched the back of his head. “Maybe we should’ve stayed in college after all.”

“Don’t be silly, Honda-kun,” Yuugi said. “He’s had a different life…” Different worlds. His voice trailed off. It had never been so obvious as now.

“I wonder why he keeps wearing that thing,” Jounouchi commented as he finished his plate. “It’s not his property, is it?”

“I don’t know,” Yuugi answered in honesty. He never asked how Atemu or anyone else had discovered it, but it had to do with his father - that was why Atemu was so possessive of the item. It was the last reminder of his bond with his father. On TV, Atemu turned his head towards another reporter.

“How did you manage to assemble it?”

“I had great help from an associate,” Atemu said. “Mutou Yuugi from the Domino City Games Shop offered his tremendous insight in puzzles. He found out, very quickly I might add, how the inner mechanics of the Puzzle worked and he is mostly responsible for assembling the artifact.”

Yuugi blushed to the roots of his hair, and fortunately he wasn’t holding any food or drink, or he would’ve spit it out. Jounouchi ruffled his hair.

“Now you’re famous too, Yuugi-kun!” he joked. “Associate-kun!”

“Quit it, Jounouchi-kun!”

“Credit’s due where credit’s due,” Sugoroku simply said.

“Domino City Games Shop, huh?” Honda participated in the teasing. “You’re going to get a whole lot of new customers!”

“Who knows,” Sugoroku said. “Free promotion is always a good thing.”

“Jii-chan, you’re not supposed to encourage them!” Yuugi ducked away from Jounouchi’s attempt to ruffle his hair again. He kept his eyes on the TV though, but the interview was over and the TV station cut to another news item.

“All right, fun is over,” Jounouchi said and got up from the sofa, extending his hand to Yuugi. “Let’s go back to the kitchen.”

Yuugi took his friend’s hand and allowed himself to be pulled up from the floor. He was still blushing. Atemu had said his name on national TV. Atemu had called out his name. Atemu had called out to him. Just wait for me.


--------------------------




Part 1 | 2 |

Profile

the_goldenpath: (Default)
Welcome to the Golden Path

August 2017

S M T W T F S
  1 23 45
67 89101112
13 141516 171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Aug. 19th, 2017 10:03 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios