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




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



Jounouchi and Honda continued their dinner as if the interruption never happened, talking amicably and finishing bowl after bowl. Yuugi joined the conversation but he didn’t eat as much; mostly because he didn’t have the same ravenous appetite as his friends, but also because Atemu’s appearance was bothering him. Sure, he had looked stunning in his suit, wearing the jewelry he so adored, and his beauty was astounding - but Yuugi had seen past it all, he had seen that wall again, so firmly in place. Had he failed? He had broken through that wall for a moment, and it was disheartening to see how the curator had reverted to his previous way to protect himself. Atemu looked lost, no matter how well he managed to hide it; Yuugi knew him better by now.

“Do you mind if I finish this, Yuugi?” Jounouchi held the last bowl in front of him.

“Not at all, Jounouchi-kun,” he said, smiling his usual smile. His friends knew him better of course, and they both tilted their head.

“Everything all right?”

“Of course,” Yuugi said.

“You’re so quiet? Does it have to do with Atemu?”

“I…” To his relief, a knock on the door spared him the answer.

“Who could it be at this hour?” Jounouchi asked out loud.

“You finish up your meal, Jounouchi-kun, Honda-kun. I’ll go get it!” Yuugi sprinted out of the kitchen, thundered down the stairs and opened the door. “Isono-san?” He was surprised to see the KaibaCorp. representative.

“Good evening Mutou-san. I’m sorry to bother you at this hour,” Isono said. He was holding a large, rectangular box wrapped in gift paper in his arms and handed it over to Yuugi. “With esteemed compliments of Khalfani-sama.”

“I can’t accept this,” Yuugi stammered. Isono bowed to him and turned to leave. “Wait, Isono-san!”

“Yes, Mutou-san?”

“I…” Yuugi hesitated. “How long will Ate… Khalfani-sama be staying at the Kaiba Mansion?”

A small smile tugged at the corners of Isono’s mouth. “I can only advise you to be quick, Mutou-san,” he said. “I’m afraid he might be gone for good if you wait too long.” Isono got back into the car and the limousine sped off, leaving Yuugi to stand in the door opening with the box in his arms, gawking.

“Yuugi? Everything all right?” Jounouchi was half-way down the stairs, looking concerned. Yuugi closed the door and showed him the large box.

“Wow! What did you get?”

“I don’t know, but it’s from Atemu-kun,” Yuugi said, blushing as he spoke his name. He wanted to add “See? He does care”, but decided against it.

“Let’s go upstairs,” Jounouchi said, barely containing his curiosity. Honda arched an eyebrow when he saw Jounouchi and Yuugi with the mysterious package.

“What’s that?”

“Yuugi has a secret admirer,” Jounouchi taunted his best friend, but followed up with a “Nah, it’s from his Egyptian boyfriend.”

“Jounouchi-kun!”

“I’m innocent!”

“Open it, Yuugi,” Honda said, sharing Jounouchi’s curiosity. Yuugi carefully peeled away the gift paper. He didn’t mind opening it in front of his friends; whatever it was, it didn’t look like a personal, intimate gift. After the paper came off, a cardboard box with the letters “Duel Disk” on it was revealed. Jounouchi spotted the envelope taped to the top of the box. He took it off and gave it to Yuugi.

“Wow, a Duel Disk,” Honda read out loud. “What is it?”

“Jounouchi-kun, would you mind opening the box?” Yuugi pressed the envelope to his chest, his heart beating loudly. Was this a personal note from Atemu? Jounouchi attacked the box to open it while Yuugi took a small piece of paper out of the envelope. When his eyes fell upon the paper, a huge wave of disappointment went through him. Honda noticed his reaction.

“What’s wrong?”

“I… I can’t read this,” Yuugi said, dazed and confused. He showed Honda the letter and he couldn’t fault his friend for snickering.

“Well, if you had any doubts about who send you this package,” he said, “how many people do you know who write in hieroglyphs?”

“I think he was in a rush,” Yuugi said, good-naturedly. His grandfather had been to Egypt in his younger years, but if he still had knowledge of hieroglyphs..? He could always ask of course, but Yuugi was startled by Jounouchi’s scream… of utter excitement. He held up an electronic device and clipped it to his arm.

“No way! I know what it is! Yuugi! This is awesome!”

“What is it, then?”

“A Duel Disk!”

“We can read, you know,” Honda said dryly, pointing at the box.

“No, you don’t understand! This is a prototype of KaibaCorp.’s virtual reality system to play Duel Monsters!”

“Really?” Yuugi was impressed. He knew the game only as a board game. Sure, there had been rumors going around that KaibaCorp. was developing certain technologies, but he hadn’t paid much attention to it, until now. Honda studied a list with the technical specifications.

“Do you realize that you’ve received an extremely advanced piece of technology?” he asked. “A prototype from KaibaCorp., many people would give good money to get their hands on it, just to test it out!”

“Atemu-kun must’ve send it to me as a way of thanking me,” Yuugi said.

“It’s an amazing gift,” Jounouchi said. “He should’ve delivered it in person, though. That would’ve made it even more special.” Honda agreed. They admired the Duel Disk and Yuugi watched his friends tinkering with it. He should’ve delivered it in person. Yuugi would’ve traded the unique technology within a heartbeat if he could hear Atemu play the cello for him again.


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



He went over to the museum the next morning. Yuugi figured it was his best (or his last?) chance to see Atemu before he left on his global trip. He didn’t dare to go to the Kaiba Mansion, afraid he would run into Kaiba Seto himself and he didn’t know what to say about the extravagant gift. He needed to talk to Atemu, if only to translate the letter the curator had written. Ishizu could translate it as well, but if he had written anything personal… Yuugi got red in the face again. In his bag, he had the letter and a special bento he had prepared for Atemu. Yuugi went inside the museum and greeted the young woman behind the reception desk. She waved and beckoned him to come closer.

“Yes?” Yuugi asked, curiously.

“I’ve got something for you,” she said and handed him a pass. “Here you are. It’s a special visitor’s pass. Khalfani-sama told me to give one to you. You can now visit all exhibitions, free of charge, all year around.”

“Oh wow, thank you!” Yuugi looked at the pass. The entrance fee to the museum wasn’t that high, but still… visiting almost daily added up greatly in his modest budget. Enthralled, Yuugi went up to the first floor, his excitement increasing when he saw the two busts of Tutankhamen flanking the entrance. It felt so good to be here, almost like home, and he wanted to see Atemu so badly…

“Good morning, Yuugi.” Ishizu and her brother Malik were standing next to an empty display case.

“Good morning Ishizu-san, Malik-kun,” Yuugi returned the greeting. “What are you doing?”

“We’re preparing this display for the arrival of a bust of Queen Tiye, all the way from the Metropolitan Museum in New York. They’ll receive our statue of Thot,” she explained. “Ustaaz Khalfani starts his tour there and to celebrate our good relationship, we thought an exchange of artifacts would be in order.”

“Speaking of him…” Yuugi was a little insecure as he retrieved Atemu’s letter from his bag, “he send me this, but I can’t read it.”

Ishizu reached for the piece of paper, but Malik was faster. He pulled it out of Yuugi’s fingers and quickly scanned it.

“My dearest love slave,” he declared in a dramatic fashion, “I want to thank you for that wonderful night we spend together! I never dreamed it could be so wonderful to be an actual human being instead of a robotic workaholic with a fetish for golden artifacts. Forever yours, Khalfani-sama.”

“Malik!” Embarrassed, Ishizu plucked the letter from Malik’s hands. “You’re very lucky that there are no visitors around!” She shooed him away before studying the letter. “I see… ustaaz Khalfani has the habit of writing in hieroglyphics if he’s a in a rush or under pressure. Not to worry, Yuugi, there’s nothing… ah, intimate that he writes.” She cleared her throat. “He thanks you for your hospitality and taking care of him. He writes that he wants you to have this gift because he thinks it’s very appropriate for you. He hopes you like it a lot.”
Ishizu was far too classy to show her outright curiosity, but Malik had no qualms doing so.

“What did he give you? Feather handcuffs?”

“No,” Yuugi denied vehemently, even if the tour guide was only teasing him. “He send me a Duel Disk.” He had to explain what it was, as only Malik knew the Duel Monsters game. He whistled in awe after Yuugi had finished his explanation.

“Is he still around?” Yuugi asked a little nervously, holding up the bento box. “I would like to talk to him…”

“Yes, this is the last day he’s here,” Ishizu said. “I’ll take you to his office.”

He followed Ishizu, even though he knew his way around the museum by now. His stomach turned itself upside down. It felt like saying goodbye, and a much more definitive goodbye than he’d like…

“Here we are. He has no visitors, so…” Ishizu knocked firmly and opened the door without waiting for an answer. Yuugi thanked her quickly before stepping in and finding Atemu at his familiar spot, behind his desk.

“Yuugi,” he said, a bit confused as he obviously hadn’t expected his visit. He rose up from his seat. Yuugi wanted to run over to him and snuggle in his arms, but he kept himself under control.

“Good morning, Atemu-kun,” he said instead, “I brought you a bento, because I’m sure you didn’t think of bringing your lunch along today.”

He was amused at the very faint blush Atemu’s face, knowing that he was right. The curator tried to hide it by tilting his head a little, causing his large earrings to shift with the movement, and of course the Puzzle shifted too. Yuugi walked up to the large desk and put the bento on top of it.

“I wanted to thank you personally for your gift,” he said.

“I figured you would like it,” Atemu said. “Kaiba has been testing the device extensively as of late, but holographic technology is so advanced and new to the market. I told him that you were the perfect person to test it out. He is eagerly awaiting your opinion.”

“Oh, really?” Yuugi scratched the back of his head. He had the feeling that Atemu praised him much more than he was actually worth. “Thank you once again. You are quite busy, aren’t you?”

“I still have to make some preparations for my trip,” Atemu admitted. Yuugi felt quite disheartened. Atemu was so focused on his trip and the Puzzle, it was probably easier to climb the Mount Everest with your bare hands than to break through his defenses. Yuugi refused to let it go. Stubbornly, he pushed through.

“Why don’t you take a break,” he said, “and enjoy your bento? You should eat something.” His eyes darted past Atemu, over his shoulder, and he noticed a familiar object standing against the wall. One of his grandfather’s canes, the one he had given to Atemu to support his injured foot.
“How’s your ankle?”

“It is fine,” Atemu said smoothly, but he sat down at the same moment Yuugi asked. He wasn’t able to stand up for a prolonged time, which had Yuugi worried. He figured that Atemu wasn’t fit enough for the trip at all and by throwing himself back into work so soon, he was impeding his own recovery. Atemu pulled the bento towards him and opened it. He stared at the contents in disbelief.

“Did you make this?” he asked. “It looks delicious!”

“I prepared it especially for you,” Yuugi said, pleased with the compliment. He didn’t have much money to spend on a gift or the connections to have something like the prototype of a Duel Disk to hand out. Atemu picked up the chopsticks, unsure what to eat first.

“This is too much for on person,” he said. “Join me?”

Yuugi happily accepted the invitation, though they had to ask Ishizu to bring them another set of chopsticks.

“Eat well,” she said as she handed Yuugi the chopsticks, from the museum’s cafeteria. “Oh my, that really looks gorgeous.”

“Thank you, Ishizu-san,” Yuugi said. He was quite amazed at his own success; he wasn’t that much of a cook, but every dish in the bento had turned out just perfectly. It tasted perfectly as well; they ate in a comfortable silence. Atemu seemed to enjoy the takoyaki, just like Jounouchi; it was the dish Yuugi had the most cooking experience with. He kept a close eye on what Atemu was eating, and if he ate enough vegetables. After a while, he broke the silence.

“You look tired,” he said. It was perhaps a crude remark, but Atemu wasn’t offended.

“I have been very busy,” he admitted. “I had to talk to so many interested people, the press and the museums to get everything organized. It is really hectic, but it is… ah, temporary.”

“I don’t want to come across as rude,” Yuugi said, “but I don’t think you’re fit for this trip. Can’t you postpone it?”

“No, that is impossible.” Atemu looked a bit uncomfortable and Yuugi felt guilty and stupid at the same time. What was he thinking, to scold him like that? He had no right! It was a stupid question anyway. He quickly searched for another topic, something else to distract the curator, and he found his opportunity in the chopsticks - as usual, Atemu held them improperly. Yuugi touched his hand to place his fingers in the right position. Atemu didn’t withdraw his hand and waited patiently until Yuugi had finished.

“When do you leave?” Yuugi asked, lowering his head a little as he continued with his own food.

“Tomorrow afternoon,” Atemu answered. Did Yuugi misinterpret his tone of voice, or did he actually sound a little sullen? “I will be visiting the United States of America first.”

“I’ve never been outside Japan,” Yuugi said.

“Do you like to travel?”

“I’d miss my family too much. I’ve been to Hokkaido a few times, but I didn’t like it. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with Hokkaido, but I didn’t like being away from my grandfather and my mother.”

“Traveling is an enrichment of life,” Atemu said. “To see other cultures, to meet other people, to experience other traditions.”

“You’ve seen a lot of the world, haven’t you?”

“Yes.” He hesitated. “Mostly work-related, though. I… could not enjoy it well enough, there was never time left to do some sight-seeing.”

“Do you ever take a holiday? Some time off?”

Atemu shook his head. “No, not really.” The bento was almost finished and Yuugi rolled the last takoyaki towards Atemu. It was such a nice moment together; they both valued each other’s company. A little later, a knock on the door announced Ishizu’s arrival.

Ustaaz Khalfani, the embassy just called,” she said. “The diplomat has fallen ill at the last moment, unfortunately. His secretary cancelled the meeting.”

“Thank you, Ishizu,” Atemu said, slightly irritated. “He will have to reschedule when I get back. I have no time to receive him before I leave.”

“Now you have the rest of the afternoon off,” she pointed out.

Atemu nodded. “Yes. I will read the notes of the meeting of…”

“… the rest of the afternoon off,” Ishizu repeated. “Forgive my audacity, but I’m going to send you home, ustaaz Khalfani. You have a big trip starting tomorrow. You could use some time off and relax a little before leaving. Instead of working until the last moment, why not enjoy an afternoon off? You never take a moment for yourself.”

“I… am not sure,” Atemu said. “I have had a few days off recently…”

“Because you fell down the stairs. We call that ‘sick leave’, not ‘a few days off’.” Ishizu sounded stern, but the concern in her voice was genuine. Yuugi picked up on what she was trying to convey: you aren’t taking care of yourself. How dense could someone be? How much work could one drown into?

“I know a great kabuki theatre,” he spoke up. “They perform every afternoon. We’ll be right on time to catch today’s performance if we leave now.”

“I’m sure you’ll like it,” Ishizu addressed Atemu. He seemed to consider, leaving the other two in suspense.

“All right, I will spend the afternoon relaxing,” he finally reached his conclusion. Yuugi and Ishizu exchanged a knowing smile. So it was said, so it was done; they left the Museum together to walk to the theatre, a few blocks away. Before leaving, Atemu handed the Puzzle to Ishizu, so she could put it in a safe; he wasn’t allowed to wear the priceless artifact in public. Yuugi liked seeing Atemu without his Puzzle. Somehow the item annoyed him; despite knowing how much it meant to Atemu, Yuugi had the feeling that it also weighed him down. For now, he tried to forget about the artifact. He was delighted that Atemu was so close, walking next to him. At the theater, Yuugi bought the tickets and he made sure to get good seats: not too far in the back and not too close to the stage. Together they enjoyed the performance, enraptured with the complexity of the story and dance, and the intricate costumes and make-up.

“Amazing, what talent!” Atemu said when the performance was over. “This was really a wonderful experience.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Yuugi was relieved. Something about Atemu was comforting him and made him feel very much at ease in the other’s presence, but there was still a bit of tension that the curator was oblivious to, and it became much harder for Yuugi to bear. It was getting late; the performance had taken up the entire afternoon. Yuugi wondered what to do next. He wanted to talk to Atemu at a personal level, yet he was hesitant to do so. Could he bother him with feelings and emotions, just before he left on his trip? Or was it exactly the right moment to talk about it now? Yuugi didn’t like the thought that he might be imposing on the other… but on the other hand, he wanted to know what was going on in the other’s mind. Yuugi was sure that Atemu was capable of talking about emotions; after all, whenever he talked about his parents, Yuugi could hear the love and care in Atemu’s voice. Before he could suggest to go somewhere to eat, Atemu took the wind out of his sails.

“I usually have dinner at the Kaiba mansion,” he said. “Your idea was the kabuki theater, it seems only fair to me that I invite you over for dinner. Have you ever been to Nishimura’s?”

Yuugi shook his head, regretfully. Nishimura’s was one of the most expensive restaurants in Domino City, way above his budget. Atemu might be able to afford it, but it didn’t feel right that he’d pay for such an expensive meal, and Yuugi knew he wouldn’t feel comfortable in an environment like Nishimura’s.

“Let’s go to Burger World,” he suggested.

“What is a Burger World?”

“It’s a fast-food restaurant,” Yuugi didn’t sugarcoat the truth, “and it’s my favorite! Have you ever eaten a hamburger?”

“No, not that I know of,” Atemu answered.

“Then you’re missing out,” Yuugi couldn’t withhold a chuckle when he saw the confused look on Atemu’s face. “Come! I’m sure you’ll like it.”

Of course, if there was anyone who looked good in the hellish bright tube lights of a fast food restaurant, it was Atemu. He stood out in particular with his tan skin, the gold on his fingers and in his ears and the Armani long-sleeved wool jacket he was wearing, amidst the plastic furniture. Yuugi got them burgers, milkshakes and fries, while Atemu searched for a seat by the window.

“Here you are!” Yuugi put the tray with the food on the table.

“Ah, ice cream,” Atemu said as he picked up the strawberry milkshake. “I know this!”

“It’s delicious,” Yuugi said. “They use real ice cream for their milkshakes here. I have the vanilla flavor, should you not like strawberry…”

“I like to try new things.” Atemu sipped the milkshake, looking humorously shocked at the sudden influx of cold, cold ice cream in his system. “I never cook, though. At home, we had our own personnel to manage the household. I lived and studied in Cairo, so I never had to eat at a cafeteria. Or at a fast food restaurant.”

“Your family was…is wealthy, right?” Yuugi didn’t know exactly whether to speak in the past or present tense when it came to Atemu’s family. His parents were deceased, but he had never mentioned siblings or far-removed relatives.

“Yes,” Atemu said. “We come from a distinguished family line that amassed fortune in the past decades. My father was particularly successful in his endeavors.” He opened one of the styrofoam boxes and asked curiously: “This is a hamburger?”

Yuugi was endeared by his inexperience with such common things. “Yes, a veritable hamburger.” He handed him a napkin. “You’re going to need this. Taste it, but be careful: it’s hot and a mouthful.” Heeding Yuugi’s advice, Atemu took a small, tentative bite and his eyes went wide in surprise.

“Oh, very nice!”

Yuugi mimicked his gesture and ate his hamburger, savoring the taste. It was a bit of a splurge, he hadn’t been to Burger World since his high school days. They ate together until the entire tray was empty. Yuugi emptied the last of his milkshake at the same moment Atemu was done with the hamburger.

“It is quite filling,” he said.

“They have the best burgers here,” Yuugi said. “I used to come here a lot with Jounouchi-kun and Honda-kun.”

“Your friends,” Atemu said.

“Yes, I’ve known them since childhood. After high school, they went into car repairs and mechanics, and I went to work at my grandfather’s store.”

“The Games Shop. You know a lot about games, that is why I thought of you when I saw Kaiba’s Duel Disk.”

“Thank you once again,” Yuugi said. “It’s a very precious gift.”

“I… did not know how else to thank you,” Atemu answered. “You took such great care of me.”

“You already thanked me,” Yuugi said. “When you played that amazing cello music for me.”

Atemu was silent for a moment. “I do not know why I even brought that thing when I came to Japan. My father gave it to me, as a birthday present. To play an instrument was a part of my upbringing. Do not get me wrong, I love to play it… it gave me something to do when my father was away from home. I always tried to master a new piece or a new technique before he would come home again, so I could show him my progress. He would always listen to me play first whenever he got home.”

Yuugi rested his head on his folded hands, listening attentively.

“I studied for hours, every day,” Atemu continued, “I worked so hard to earn his compliments and recognition of who I was: his son. Not only the cello, but also my universitary studies, my extracurricular activities… I wanted to make him proud, I wanted to be like him: sophisticated, educated, wise… and I studied and I studied, but one day he did not come home.”

Yuugi could see the barely hidden pain in Atemu’s eyes, and he wanted nothing but to reach out and touch him.

“It was so unfair. I studied so hard… Beethoven, Bach, Paganini… all I could think to myself was: did I not work hard enough? Had I slacked off? Why else did he not come home?”

Yuugi couldn’t care less about what anyone else at the restaurant might think of him, he put his hand over Atemu’s, curling his fingers around his, squeezing gently. The curator didn’t withdraw, totally lost in his own memories. “I kept asking myself: where did I go wrong? What did I do not well enough? Was the piece I chose not good enough for my father to return? Why had I made this choice?”

“Atemu-kun… what happened to your father?” Yuugi asked.

“It was a car accident,” he answered. “A head-on collision. My father… for whatever reason, he swerved to the other side of the road, straight into an opposite car. The other driver was badly injured, but survived. My father died instantly.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that.”

Atemu blinked a few times, as if he broke free from a trance. “I should return to the mansion,” he said. “I have to take care of the last-minute preparations.”

“All right.” Yuugi let go of his hand. He wasn’t offended by Atemu’s abrupt reaction. He had seen just a little bit of Atemu without his shell, and it sufficed him for now. Yuugi knew when to take a small step back. They left Burger World as Atemu called for the limousine; the distance from the restaurant to the Kaiba Mansion or the Game Shop was too far to travel by foot. Within a couple of minutes, the limousine arrived and the driver held the door open.

“Game Shop,” Atemu said as he got inside; if the driver was surprised by his destination, he didn’t show. Yuugi felt terribly spoiled with such a ride; the luxurious upholstery, the finesse of the car - and Atemu sitting next to him, of course. Much too soon, they arrived at the Game Shop. The store was closed and the lights were on at the first floor; at this hour, grandfather had probably gone too bed and his mother was watching her favorite soap or a movie. Yuugi stepped out of the limousine. Atemu followed him, after telling the driver to wait. With the keys in his hand, Yuugi stood in front of the door, watching Atemu walk up to him.

“Thank you,” the curator said. “I really had a very nice day.”

“I wish you wouldn’t leave tomorrow,” Yuugi said, it was out of his mouth before he could stop himself. Atemu fidgeted a little, turning the cufflinks on the sleeves of his coat around.

“I… Yuugi…”

“Yes?” Yuugi’s anxiety grew. Atemu didn’t look at him, keeping his head lowered. He was obviously looking for the right words. “Atemu-kun,” he said, “whatever you want to say to me, it’s all right. Just talk to me.”

“I know what you want from me,” Atemu blurted out. He looked up and Yuugi was taken aback by the outright… insecurity and fear in his eyes. “I... I cannot hold on. I know what you want and I cannot answer. Please, believe me. It is not that I do not want…” He sighed heavily, “it is that I cannot give what you are looking for.”

Yuugi lifted up his hand, cupping Atemu’s cheek. “I want nothing from you that you can’t give me,” Yuugi said. “What I want, is happiness for you, Atemu-kun. I would never impose on you.”

“You do not impose on me,” Atemu said, “I do not know how to respond, Yuugi. I just cannot. It is impossible.”

“Then I’ll step back,” Yuugi said, his fingers stroking his skin, “Tell me we’ll be just friends and I’ll be your friend, Atemu.”

He dropped the honorific even though he didn’t know why. Yuugi could see the open, raw emotions on Atemu’s face. His vulnerability touched him. Yuugi would never impose on the other, he would never force Atemu to take a decision right here, right now. On the other hand, he wanted to know what kind of chance he stood, if he was standing a chance at all. There was something between them that Atemu answered to, as he never rebuked Yuugi’s touches. How much did Atemu care for him? Why was it impossible for him to answer?

“Tell me, Atemu, please.” It was a painful moment. He could see how Atemu struggled, looking for the right words, to convey his emotions, to tell him… that it was impossible, that it wasn’t going to work out. Two different worlds. Even the simple choice of restaurant stressed the large contrast, the huge gap between them. Fast food versus Michelin star food… “I’m your friend,” Yuugi said, “and I want to be your friend and nothing more, if that feels better to you. Please, say something.” He knew he was pushing it after all, but this was pure torture. Atemu was so close he could kiss him.

“I…” Atemu lowered his eyes again. “I do not know what to say,” he said, shoulders slumped. “I have never… dealt with something like this before.”

“You don’t have to ‘deal’ with it,” Yuugi said. “This isn’t a business transaction, this isn’t a golden artifact you can assemble together. Open your heart. Listen to your heart. What does it tell you?”

Silence. Yuugi was torn. He couldn’t let go of the other, not with Atemu leaning into his touch.

“How can you be like this?” Atemu suddenly asked, taking Yuugi by surprise.

“What do you mean?”

“So loving, so kind, so caring… we do not even know each other that well, yet you watch over me and ask for nothing in return.”

“It’s who I am,” Yuugi answered. “Don’t tell me you think you’re not kind or caring, Atemu. You came to my store to find a suitable gift for your host. It might be a custom, but you took the time and effort to do so. Ishizu-san told me that you helped her family when they were in dire need; if that isn’t caring, I don’t know what it is. You’re capable of loving and caring.”

“I guess so,” Atemu said, but he didn’t sound convinced. “I do not think I can do this.”

“Can you do this?” Yuugi asked, tilting his head a little.

Confused, Atemu followed Yuugi’s example and tilted his head as well. Yuugi leaned into him, parting his lips and gently brushed them over Atemu’s. A faint hint of a kiss, nothing too explicit, but he lingered, gauging Atemu’s reaction. To his utmost delight, Atemu closed his eyes, entranced, and he kissed him anew, this time with slightly more force. Still, it was a tentative kiss, but Atemu responded to it. Yuugi could feel his confusion, though. Maybe he’d been wrong all the time and was Atemu responding to the physical aspect, and not the emotional one. It was disappointing and Yuugi broke up the kiss, devastated at the thought that Atemu was only giving into the kiss for the pleasure, not for a sign of love. Atemu immediately averted his head when the kiss was over. The curator was blushing, Yuugi could see it in the light of the nearby street lantern.

“I’ve made my intentions clear,” Yuugi said, voice soft. “You don’t have to answer me right away, Atemu. I truly want you to be happy, and I’d love it if I could be a part of your happiness. You said it yourself: you know what I want. I can’t be any clearer than this.”

“I understand.” One of Atemu’s earrings caught the light of the lantern pole and flickered. “I need some time,” he said. “If… you are willing to give me time. I do not wish for you to be hurt… but I cannot answer you, not now.”

“I understand.” Yuugi repeated Atemu’s word. He nudged him gently. “The driver’s waiting.”

“Yes, yes, I should go.” Atemu didn’t move, though. “Would you come see me off, tomorrow? Domino City Airport, terminal 4? Three o’clock in the afternoon.”

Yuugi didn’t hesitate. “I’ll be there,” he said. “Wait for me.”

“Wait for me,” Atemu repeated and turned around to leave. Yuugi watched his retreating back, fighting against the tears. Without a definitive answer, he almost felt toyed with. How long would he be able to keep this up? How long would he ignore his own wants and needs, just to wait for the other? How long was he going to have to wait? He knew the answer already. Jounouchi would call him crazy, but he was going to wait for Atemu for as long as he needed to, forever. The limousine drove off and Yuugi stared at it until it was long gone.


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



Takana-sama wasn’t very pleased with Yuugi taking the afternoon off on such short notice. He apologized profusely and told his boss at his accounting job a white lie: he had to go to the airport to see a relative off, not a potential lover with trust issues. The man demanded that Yuugi would take work home with him and he agreed; anything to get out of the man’s hair and to the airport. He took the subway, butterflies in his stomach as if he was going to welcome a long lost lover instead of saying goodbye to someone he loved. Yes, he loved him, he was sure of it, but the tension and pain of his feelings not being answered (yet..?) was slowly killing him. The airport was crowded and overwhelming, and it took him some time to locate terminal 4. He put on his biggest smile as he spotted Atemu, surrounded by the Ishtars. Rishid stood out because of his height and impressive posture, surely the best bodyguard one could wish for. Atemu wasn’t wearing the Puzzle in public and carried the artifact in a special suitcase that he didn’t leave out of his sight.

“Yuugi,” he said with a sigh of relief.

“Good afternoon, everyone,” Yuugi said.

“How nice to see you here, Yuugi!” Ishizu herded her brothers together. “Rishid, Malik, we’ll go get some coffee, all right?”

“But I just had a tall venti mocha chai latte!” Malik protested and yelped as Rishid all but lifted him up at the scruff of his neck and dragged him a way, picking up on Ishizu’s subtlety infallibly.

As soon as the Ishtars were gone, Yuugi looked at Atemu. “I don’t think you got much sleep last night,” he said, slightly teasing.

“I had a lot to think about,” Atemu admitted, albeit sheepishly. He fidgeted with one of the rings on his fingers. “Do you still… do you still want to wait?”

“I have a lot of patience,” Yuugi said. He added: “But it’s not infinitive.”

“I understand.”

“You’ll be gone for at least six months,” Yuugi said. He didn’t like it when he said it out loud. “That’s a lot of time to think things over… I mean, when you’re not busy showing the Puzzle around and all.”

“I will have plenty of time to think, in between exhibits and presentations,” Atemu said. “I only have Rishid for company…”

“Here.” Yuugi gave Atemu a piece of paper on which he had written down his email and his Skype number. “I don’t care what time zone you’re in, if you want to talk, just give me a call.”

“Thank you.” He stuck the small card into his jacket pocket. Atemu removed one of his rings and grabbed Yuugi’s hand, pressing the piece of jewelry onto his palm. He folded Yuugi’s fingers over it. “Take this as a token of my promise,” he said, “that I will think of you every day.”
Yuugi wanted to say something in return, when a metallic voice resonated through the terminal:
“Passengers for flight JAL-176 to New York, United States, please proceed to Gate 19.”

“That’s your flight!” Malik popped up with another large coffee in his hand. Yuugi withdrew his hand as if being stung, which elicited a curious look from the tour guide. Even Atemu looked like he was caught in the middle of a shady deal instead of giving something of emotional value to Yuugi. “Did I miss something?”

“Malik,” Ishizu spoke up, “say goodbye to your brother and ustaaz Khalfani. Rishid, you’ll call us as soon as you’ve landed, right?”

“Yes, of course.” He nodded and put his hands on the cart with the luggage. Malik and Ishizu said their goodbyes and so did Yuugi. He locked eyes with Atemu, not sure how to read the look
in his eyes. Something like… regret?

“Please be safe. I’ll wait for you,” he said softly, so the others wouldn’t overhear. Atemu didn’t say anything in return. He showed a small, strained smile before proceeding through the gate, and then he was out of sight.

Ishizu turned to Yuugi. “Would you like to ride home with us?” she asked. “Or do you want to be alone for a minute?”

“I’m all right, Ishizu-san,” Yuugi said, which wasn’t beside the truth. He felt a little sad, but he wasn’t depressed. “I’d love a ride home with you.”

“Neat,” Malik said and batted his eyes at his sister. “Can I drive?”

“Malik, you’d hit an incoming airplane. I’ll do the driving.”


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



“I don’t know, man. What’s it that he wants?” Jounouchi wolfed down the last of his gyudon. Yuugi tucked the ring he had received from Atemu, which he had hung on a small chain as it was too large for his fingers, back into his shirt. “You still don’t know if he loves you. He didn’t say any such thing.”

“It’s hard for him to talk about his emotions,” Yuugi said. Jounouchi shook his head.

“You always defend him, Yuugi, but what do you mean to him? You love him, but he shows nothing in return. It’s not fair that he keeps you dangling.”

“He doesn’t do it on purpose, Jounouchi-kun. He has very little experience with relationships.”

“Are you telling me he’s a virgin?”

“That’s not what I’m saying..!”

Jounouchi put his empty bowl to the side. “Well, I don’t envy you, Yuugi. I know, relationships aren’t all roses and sunshine. Love is difficult. Some people play hard to get, some people are hard to get, some people don’t know about their feelings…”

“What are you trying to say, Jounouchi-kun?”

“It’s your choice if you want to wait for him to finally figure out his feelings,” Jounouchi said. “I think it’s unfair that he’s got all the time in the world to ‘think about it’, while you’ve fallen heads over heels in love with him. I told you before and I’ll tell you again: if he breaks your heart, I’ll break his arms.”

“Jounouchi-kun! There’s no need for violence of any kind.”

Jounouchi balled his hand into a fist and shook it in front of Yuugi’s face. Flustered, Yuugi put his fist down. He knew Jounouchi didn’t like to see him hurt, and he had mentioned before that he was afraid that Yuugi was setting himself up for major disappointment and heartache.

“Let’s talk about something else. How’s Honda-kun?”

“Oh, he took my ‘advice’ and rekindled his relationship with Miho,” Jounouchi said. “I can’t believe it, suddenly I’m the only one without a girlfriend! Life partner,” he corrected himself. “My sister’s happily married, Honda has a girlfriend, you have a boyfriend, and I’ve got nothing!”

“You’ve got us,” Yuugi said, hiding his laughter.

“Yeah, but I don’t want to see you in my bed,” Jounouchi protested. “Attention, love and care are important, but sex is too!”

“I get it,” Yuugi chuckled. “Why don’t you try again with Mai-san?”

“Meh, I doubt it would work out.” Jounouchi said. He saw him stifling a yawn. “You want me to go home?”

“No, no. It’s just been a busy day, and I still have to do the work Takana-sama wants me to do.”

“Your boss is a cruel, cruel man.” Jounouchi had offered his help, but he knew next to nothing about accounting. It wasn’t the difficulty of the work, but the amount. Takana could be really cruel indeed. “How’s your grandfather doing?”

“He doesn’t need as much help as before, still, he’s not as well as expected,” Yuugi answered. “He felt better as of late, but now it looks like age is catching up to him again. He’s over eighty, no one expect him to work forty hours a week.”

“What are you going to do when he can’t help out with the Game Shop anymore?”

“I rather not see him work at all. I want him to enjoy his retirement, he deserves it.” Yuugi said. He heaved a sigh. “The Game Shop doesn’t yield enough profit, so I have to keep my second job… and in the worst case scenario, I have to close the store and work full-time for Takana-sama. My heart lies with the Game Shop, but I have to make enough money to keep on living. I really don’t want to work full-time for Takana-sama.”

“That would be sour, man.” Jounouchi looked pensive. “Hey, let me ask you something else: did you take a look at that Duel Disk?”

“Yes, it’s incredible technology,” Yuugi said. “I did notice a few flaws, though. It’s not working perfectly yet.”

“What are you going to do about it?”

“I wrote some suggestions down, but I don’t dare to send it to Kaiba,” Yuugi said, shyly.

“Come on, he’d probably appreciate the input.”

“Atemu-kun said the same… but I think a busy CEO like Kaiba Seto isn’t waiting for comments from a simple game shop owner.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. Just send your feedback to him! How can he improve his product, if he doesn’t get feedback from the ones who’re going to sell it?”

“You’ve got a point,” Yuugi said. “All right, I’ll send him my comments tomorrow morning, after work.”

Jounouchi went home after they had talked some more, not just about relationships or Duel Disks alone. Yuugi stretched and yawned. Time to go to bed! Tomorrow was another day at his accounting job. How he wished he could work at the Game Shop 24/7 instead of having to slave for Takana-sama! Yuugi went upstairs. He took a hot shower and changed into his pajamas. The laptop on his desk showed him a screen with the icons for his browser, his email program and his Skype. It had been a week and Yuugi still hadn’t heard from Atemu. He figured the curator was extremely busy, attending presentations and press conferences with the Puzzle and all, but it hurt. His hand went to the ‘off’ button. Maybe he was wrong in thinking that he could wait for someone whose walls were too tough to break. Maybe he was wrong in thinking he could bring those walls down. He had caught glimpses of Atemu, of his core self - but it was so much hard work, was it all worth it? It took two to keep up a relationship, if he was the only one pulling the cart… his fingers were about to tap the button, when the sound of an incoming Skype call buzzed through his room. Yuugi didn’t know how fast to click ‘accept’. The video chat screen opened as well, showing nothing but a blur. Yuugi’s lips widened into a smile.

“The camera, Atemu,” he said. “Allow it to autofocus.”

“Is that you, Yuugi?” The deepness of his voice, that timbre… Yuugi wanted to melt.

“Yes, it’s me, unless you wanted to call someone else?”

“No, no, I wanted to call you.” The camera focused and Atemu was full in sight, clad in a Dolce & Gabbana suit. Yuugi couldn’t deny it; suits looked extremely well on the other. Atemu was a handsome man, no ifs and buts about it. Yuugi was glad to see him, only to realize that he was wearing his star-patterned pajamas himself. “I did not interrupt you in your sleep, did I? These time zones are so confusing…”

“No, no problem at all,” Yuugi said. “I was about to go to bed, you didn’t wake me.” He took a deep breath. “How are you?”

“I am well,” Atemu said, but he sounded tired. “I have to leave for a banquet in an hour. I am getting a little bit fed up with it. I wanted to present the Puzzle to the public, but all I have done so far, is talking to other curators and high society people who sponsor all these meetings…it is so commercial.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Yuugi said.

“I never minded talking to sponsors and representatives, but this feels like… it is so constraining. Like moving around in a cage, if you know what I mean.” Atemu tugged at his sleeve. “I would rather be at Burger World with you.”

Yuugi blushed immensely. “As soon as you get back, we’ll go there for a burger,” he promised.

“Only six more months to go,” Atemu said, a little wryly. He heaved a sigh. “Do not get me wrong, everything is organized into the finest details. People are very kind to me, everyone is interested and supportive.” A silence. “They are not you. I wish you were here with me.”

It was as close to a “I miss you” as Yuugi could get, and he latched onto it. “I wish you were here with me too,” he said. “We could go to the theater again, or watch a movie… or just have lunch together.”

Atemu nodded. The camera on his laptop showed a part of his hotel room and Yuugi saw his grandfather’s cane, propped up against the bed.

“Do you still need the cane?” He frowned.

“Every now and then,” Atemu admitted. “I am standing on my feet for days in a row, so occasionally I need a little support.”

Yuugi tsk-ed. “When you get back, you’re going to take some time off, okay? We’ll work on your recovery, your full recovery.”

“You are right.” Atemu looked a bit embarrassed. “So, how have you been?”

Yuugi told him about his past week, how he’d been working his two jobs, meeting up with Jounouchi, taking care of the household, the daily grind of life. Atemu told him about the meetings and assemblies he went to and what kind of other presentations he was going to attend, until a knock on the door startled him. It was Rishid, also clad in smoking, carrying the small suitcase with the Puzzle inside.

“Good evening, Rishid-san,” Yuugi greeted him. Rishid returned the greeting as he handed the suitcase to Atemu.

“Nice to see you, Mutou-san,” he said, polite as ever.

“Have you heard from your family?” Yuugi asked.

“We Skype every day,” Rishid said. “Malik wants me to take pictures and bring home souvenirs. He’d love to see the United States for himself one day.” The tall man bowed to Atemu, who had put on the Puzzle again. “Ustaaz Khalfani, we have to leave.”

“Yes, I know.” Atemu sounded reluctant, but he had his obligations to fulfill. “I will call you again,” he said, “sleep well, Yuugi.”

“Take care,” Yuugi said and the connection was severed. The screen went black. He felt cold at once, cold and empty now the light literally was gone. Yuugi quickly climbed into bed and tried to fall asleep. His thoughts went back to Atemu. They hadn’t exchanged really deep thoughts. Atemu told him that he wished Yuugi was with him, he hadn’t said ‘I miss you’ out loud. Yuugi looked at his alarm clock. He wasn’t going to get much asleep if his thoughts kept going around in circles. He had to put Atemu out of his mind and focus on his rest. After an hour, Yuugi managed to fall asleep and he dreamt about Atemu and himself, spending a lovely afternoon at the theater, going home and spending some… private time… Just when things got a little hot and bothered, the alarm clock blared mercilessly, pulling Yuugi out of his wonderful dream. Grumpily, he got up and checked his laptop, but there were no new messages or calls.


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



“Yuugi-kun?”

“Yes, kaa-san?” Yuugi was about to keel over.. It had been a busy week at work so far, both at his accountant job and the Game Shop. Customers were buying Duel Monsters decks and booster packs by the numbers. Rumors were going around that KaibaCorp. was going to release a ‘Duel Disk’ to intensify the experience of the game, with ground-breaking holographic technology. Duel Monsters was Yuugi’s favorite game and he enjoyed talking to his customers about strategies and giving them advice about starter decks. It looked like people were gearing up for the release of the Duel Disk, pimping and expanding their collection. Yuugi was very satisfied with this week’s revenue. If only it could be like this every week! Takana-sama had been very bossy, all the numbers for the 3th quarter had to be processed and all that Yuugi wanted was a bite to eat, a shower and sleep, delicious sleep. He didn’t hear his mother again. Yuugi figured that if she really needed him, she’d come looking for him, so he decided to heat up his dinner, as he was famished.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t want to disturb you,” his mother said as she peeked around the kitchen door. “I thought this might be important.” She held up a small card. “Someone came to see you today, but you were at the office. He asked me to tell you to call him, anytime.”

“Oh?” Yuugi took the card from his mother and recognized the KC logo in the upper right corner immediately. For a split second, he thought that Kaiba himself had been at the door, but the card mentioned Isono’s name.

“I’ll finish up dinner first,” Yuugi said. “Thanks, kaa-san.”

“Yuugi-kun…”

“Yes?”

His mother sat down at the kitchen table with a serious look on her face. “I... I have been thinking about you a lot,” she said. “About what you told me.”

Yuugi nodded. It had hurt a lot when she hadn’t been as accepting of his choice of life partner as his grandfather. He understood that he had surprised her with his confession, and he had allowed her all the time she needed to come to terms with it. Apparently, now was the moment, judging from the look in her eyes: not rejecting, but loving.

“You’re my son. I love you. I’m so sorry, but it took me a while to get used to the fact that I won’t be welcoming a daughter-in-law, but a son-in-law. I had to adjust myself to the changes of my own ideas and ideals… and to accept the fact that it wasn’t about me, but about my son and his happiness. Whomever you come home with, it’s fine by me, Yuugi-kun. Be it a man or a woman, as long as he or she makes you happy, I’m perfectly fine with whomever you choose.”

“Kaa-san!” Yuugi jumped at her, wrapping his arms around her for a big hug. She started crying.

“Forgive me, Yuugi-kun, for doubting your choice,” she said, teary-eyed. “I just want to see you happy. And if Atemu-kun makes you happy, or any other man, I’ll be here to cheer you on.”

“There’s nothing to forgive, kaa-san,” Yuugi said. “I’m so glad you told me this! Thank you so much!”

“You’re welcome,” she said, ruffling his hair like she used to do when he was a child. He handed her a handkerchief so she could dab at her eyes. “So, tell me dear, how are things going between you and Atemu-kun?”

She took him by surprise with her question, but Yuugi answered nonetheless. He showed his mother the ring Atemu had given him. “It’s hard to say where we stand, exactly. We’re not officially in a relationship and he’s gone now, to promote that ancient artifact of his, the Puzzle. When he left, he promised he would think about me, or rather, he asked me to wait for him. This is all new and… unfamiliar to him.”

“Oh, Yuugi-kun.” His mother touched his cheek. “Matters of the heart are so complicated. I noticed that Atemu-san was quite distant, but his eyes lit up every time he talked about you or looking at you, or whenever you were around.”

“Really?” Yuugi’s heart skipped a beat. Honda had told him something similar, that Atemu had been stealing glances at him, back when everybody had visited the Mutou household. It was right there, those emotions and feelings, in Atemu’s heart, but he simply didn’t know how to access them. Ishizu was right; what had been built up in years, didn’t come down in just a few weeks.

“I’m sorry that he’s away,” she said. “You just got to meet each other and now you’re so far apart.”

“Stupid Puzzle,” Yuugi muttered. “I wish I had never solved that stupid thing.”

“If you hadn’t, you would never have gotten closer to Atemu-san,” she said. “The Puzzle means a lot to him.”

“It helped him to deal with his father’s passing,” Yuugi said, feeling a bit guilty about his bad thoughts.

“That’s just awful.” She sighed. “So much pain and grief at such a young age. He’s very lucky to have found you, Yuugi-kun. You’re able to smother someone completely with love and attention.”

“I’m not sure if that’s really positive, kaa-san.” Yuugi winked at his mother to show that he wasn’t completely serious, and she ruffled his hair once more. She got up from her chair and tapped on the business card on the table.

“Don’t forget to call!”

“I won’t, kaa-san.” Yuugi finished his dinner and put the dirty dishes into the sink. Taking a cup of tea with him, he went upstairs to make his phone call in the privacy of his own bedroom. He dialed the number and within just two rings, Isono answered.

“Mutou-san?”

“Yes, Isono-san,” he said. “How can I help you?”

“Seto-sama received your recommendations on how to improve the Duel Disk,” Isono said. “He would like to talk to you about it. Would tomorrow afternoon be a suitable time for you?”

“K-Kaiba wants to talk to me?”

“Seto-sama is very intrigued by your recommendations. He wants perfection of course, before releasing such technology to the market.”

“I… I don’t know what to say…” Yuugi had to think fast. Tomorrow afternoon meant Friday afternoon, which was his day at the Game Shop. If his grandfather could take over for him, just for a couple of hours… “I think I can make it.”

“I’ll send the car for you,” Isono said.

“Thank you, Isono-san.” Yuugi stared at his cell phone in disbelief. Great, now he was going to get a handful of Kaiba Seto’s mind! He would probably demand why a simple shopkeeper like Mutou Yuugi had the audacity to suggest any improvements? What did Yuugi know about a Duel Disk system that an entire R & D team had helped to develop? He quickly took a shower and changed into his pajamas again. His head was spinning. Just as he was about to go downstairs and talk to his grandfather, his laptop played a familiar signal - Skype! Yuugi accepted the call.

“Good evening,” Atemu said, “or is it good night?”

“No, no, I decided to slip into my pajamas early,” Yuugi said, “much more comfortable than a business suit. Where are you?”

“Copenhagen, Denmark,” Atemu answered. “I will be very glad once we will get to Southern Europe. It is so cold here!”

“I know you don’t like the cold.” Yuugi glanced at the calendar. Six weeks, only six weeks since Atemu had gone on his trip. This was pure torture. “I wish you were here.”

“I wish you were here too,” Atemu said. “It is so cold.”

“Do you miss me?” Yuugi asked.

“Yes,” Atemu’s answer came within a second.

“I miss you too.” It was awfully corny, but Yuugi put his hand on the laptop screen, right in front of the camera, and he was very delighted that Atemu did the same.

“I have an appointment with Kaiba,” Yuugi said, cringing at the most unromantic topic he could ever have chosen. “He wants to talk to me regarding the Duel Disk.”

“I knew it!” Atemu sounded proud. “When Kaiba showed me the Duel Disk, I just knew that you were the perfect one to take an objective look at it. You have so much experience with games.”

“It was actually quite fun to do,” Yuugi admitted. “I enjoyed testing it out.”

“Maybe he will offer you a job on his R & D team,” Atemu mused. Yuugi went along with the little fantasy. With a position like that, he could certainly quit his accountant job…

“We’ll see,” Yuugi said. “Atemu…”

“Yes?”

Yuugi lowered his hand, as he wanted to see the reaction on Atemu’s face. He had told the curator that he didn’t want to impose on him and that he allowed him all the time he needed to think. Could he blame himself for wanting a little bit more security?

“Have you thought… about us?”

“Yuugi…” Atemu didn’t look annoyed or angered. “Yes, I have. Very much, every spare moment I had.”

Yuugi remained silent. His body tensed all over, as if he was bracing himself for something terrible to happen.

“Please be patient with me,” Atemu said. “I want to be with you, but I am so far away from you. I miss you. I thought… I thought that by showing the Puzzle around the world, I would be at peace with myself, with my father’s death… but I have never felt so restless before. All this Puzzle does, is removing myself from you, instead of bringing me closer.”

“It will bring us closer,” Yuugi immediately said. He felt so relieved, so happy! Atemu... he really wanted to be with him! “When your trip is over, you’ll return with it to Domino City.” He smiled. “You’ll return home.”

“Home,” Atemu said. “I have not called any place ‘home’ for a long, long time.”

“Your home is with me,” Yuugi said. When Atemu fell silent, he feared he had gone too far.

“It is,” the curator said. “I cannot wait to see you again. Rishid misses his family too.”

“I can imagine.” Yuugi shifted a little in front of the camera. “I’m glad you called. I love you,” he blurted out.

“I love you too,” Atemu said. “You mean more than anything in the world to me.”

Yuugi blushed. It was a good thing the human body couldn’t melt into a puddle of goo, or else there would’ve been nothing left of him. “It’s going to work out,” he said. “We’ll make it work out. Please be patient with me too. Only four-and-a-half more months to go.”

“You already have done so much,” Atemu said. “I do not know why you put up with me.”

“Because you deserve it,” Yuugi said. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Atemu repeated. “It sounds silly, but I knew it the moment I boarded the plane. Suddenly I knew I wanted to be with you, no matter what.”

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” Yuugi answered. “You had a lot of things to sort through.”

“I am not sure if I am… the right kind of boyfriend. I…”

“Who says I’m the right kind of boyfriend for you, if such a thing as ‘right kind of boyfriend’ exists? The most important thing is, that we love each other. We can talk about our emotions as long and as much as we want. I know it’s not easy for you.”

“That is why I asked why you put up with me.”

“And I answered ‘because you deserve it’,” Yuugi said. “You deserve to be with someone who watches over you and who loves you.”

“I cannot compete with such tenacity,” Atemu said. “Now, go to bed. You have work tomorrow.”

“I know.” Yuugi didn’t disconnect, however. He forcefully suppressed the urge to kiss the laptop screen. “I’ll send you a text message as soon as I get up, all right?”

“All right. Sleep well, Yuugi.”

“Sleep well, Atemu.” The connection was severed. Yuugi rolled onto his bed, staring at the ceiling. He just couldn’t believe what just had happened. Not a few hours ago, he had been telling his mother that he didn’t know where he was standing with this ‘relationship’, and now Atemu had said “I love you”, not once, but twice! A nasty little voice in the back of his head told him that Atemu was feeling lonely, traveling from hotel room to hotel room without anyone familiar around him, safe for Rishid Ishtar. He didn’t have his usual work with him, to bury himself into it, and now he was missing him, Yuugi, because he had come to see him as an addition to his life, not as a friend or lover. Yuugi tried to squelch those thoughts and focused on the positive. Atemu wasn’t a liar. He would never say the things Yuugi wanted to hear, just to be done with it. His lips curled up in a smile as he closed his eyes. One day, Atemu would lie next to him and they would hold each other tight… he couldn’t wait! Content, Yuugi fell asleep.


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




Part 1 | 2 | 3 |

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