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




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



Six months later

“When is his plane going to land?”

“Yuugi, for the last time…” Jounouchi rolled his eyes and pointed upwards, to the electronic information boards, displaying the arrivals and departures. “There, see? EgyptAir 559, in thirty minutes.”

“Don’t forget he has to go through customs and claim his luggage,” Honda commented. “We have plenty of time to get a cup of coffee!”

“You get your coffee, I don’t think Yuugi needs any,” Malik said, looking amusedly at Yuugi, bouncing from one foot to the other.

“We’re all glad that ustaaz Khalfani and Rishid are going to be here soon,” Ishizu said, “but Yuugi has even more reasons to be happy.” She gave him an understanding look.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jounouchi said. “After six months, he’d better be happy to see Yuugi too.”

“Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi said good-naturedly. He knew his friend meant well; Jounouchi supported Yuugi and every choice he made, even if he had his doubts that their relationship was going to work out. He couldn’t understand why Yuugi had allowed Atemu to leave at the very fragile start of said relationship, even though Yuugi had more than once explained that Atemu needed to do this; not only because of his work but also because of personal reasons. Jounouchi couldn’t grasp how Yuugi could be patient enough as to wait six months for someone he deemed as fickle. He regarded Atemu as a friend because he meant so much to Yuugi, but not yet as his friend, he simply didn’t know him well enough. Nonetheless, both Jounouchi and Honda supported Yuugi all the way and they had cheered him up many times, whenever he was feeling lonely. Six months of Skyping and text messaging was no substitute for the real thing, of course. Yuugi missed Atemu terribly and every evening he crossed off another date on his calendar.

During the curator’s absence though, Yuugi had had his meeting with Kaiba Seto concerning the Duel Disk. The CEO was so impressed with Yuugi’s recommendations that he offered him a spot on his R & D team, which enabled Yuugi to quit his second job, much to his delight. As Kaiba paid a much better salary, the Mutou family could afford professional care for Sugoroku, improving his quality of life. The elderly man was happy to help out in the Game Shop again, sitting behind the counter and talking about Duel Monsters decks and cards all day long. Yuugi combined working at the Shop with his work for Kaiba, enjoying the challenge of the R & D team, instead of his previous, brain dead accounting job. Yuugi had been invited to the official launch party of the Duel Disk system and his Game Shop had been the first selling point in all of Japan - which had people from the entire country flock to the Game Shop and sell out stock within an hour.

“What time is it?”

“For the love of…. Yuugi!” Jounouchi made a dramatic gesture by throwing his hands up in the air. Honda snickered and pulled out his cell phone to send a text message to Miho. While Yuugi paced back and forth, Ishizu wandered away from the group, a little lost in thoughts. Domino City Airport wasn’t that huge; it served a couple of international destinations as well as a direct transfer to Narita Airport. Ishizu walked up to the windows that offered a wide view on the runways. She smiled as she saw the EgyptAir plane taxiing to its destined gate. It was perfectly on time!

“This is very good coffee,” Malik said, popping up next to her with a tall cup in his hand. She turned her head towards him.

“Malik! How much coffee did you have?”

“Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ll stop after this one.”

“You’re such a caffeine addict!” Ishizu looked outside again.

“Is that the plane?”

“Yes… it is.”

“What’s the matter? You don’t sound very happy.”

Ishizu frowned. “There’s an ambulance on the tarmac,” she said, “and it’s driving straight to the EgyptAir plane.”

Malik was about to say something, when Yuugi approached, curiously.

“Can you see the plane?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Malik said. It was of no use to lie, of course. Smiling exuberantly, Yuugi pressed his nose against the glass, immediately spotting the large plane…. and the ambulance that was parking in front of it.

“Oh no!”

“It doesn’t have to mean a thing,” Ishizu said, her voice the epitome of calmness. “We have to be patient.”

“How do we find out what’s wrong?”

“We have to be patient,” Ishizu repeated.

“Is it about the EgyptAir plane?” A woman in her mid-forties, standing to the right, asked. She held up her smartphone. “I just got a text from my cousin. Someone has fallen ill on the plane and he has to be taken to the hospital before the rest of the passengers can get off.”

“Does your cousin know who it was?” Yuugi asked.

“No, he didn’t get a name, but he send me a message me that it was a short, Arabic speaking man with the craziest hairstyle he had ever seen!”

“Khalfani-sama,” Ishizu sighed.

“Oh Atemu,” Yuugi said. He grabbed his cell phone from his pants pocket and frantically dialed Atemu’s number. His fingers trembled so hard that he had to start over a couple of times. Ishizu tried to reach Rishid, to no avail.

“They haven’t turned on their cell phones yet,” she said. “Yuugi, perhaps…”

“Yes, hello? Who’s this?” Yuugi suddenly started talking. “Rishid-san? Rishid-san, is that you? Can you tell me what happened?” He listened for a moment and then stared at the display, upset.

“Did he say something?” Malik asked.

“He said that he would call me back,” Yuugi said.

“I can’t really see what’s happening,” Ishizu said, leaning against the glass. “The plane’s too far. I think the paramedics are on board now.”

“Domino City has three hospitals,” Yuugi said. “Can you read the number on the ambulance, Ishizu-san?”

She squinted. “301 something…”

“That’s the same hospital jii-chan has gone to before.” Yuugi turned around and ran towards Jounouchi and Honda.

“What’s he doing?” Malik was confused.

“I think he wants Jounouchi to drive him to the hospital,” she said.

“That’s crazy! We’re not even sure if it’s Khalfani who…” His voice trailed off. Ishizu didn’t understand at first, but she followed his line of view and saw that the paramedics were carrying someone down on a gurney. The man who appeared in the door opening of the plane left little to the imagination: tall, dark skinned and impressive, he looked stoic and composed.

“Rishid,” Ishizu heaved a sigh. “We better follow Yuugi and the others.”


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



At the hospital, it was difficult to find out where Atemu exactly was. The receptionist, albeit friendly and cooperative, couldn’t find any record of his admittance, which led Yuugi to believe he had gone to the wrong hospital after all.

“I’m going to call the other hospitals,” he said, but Jounouchi took his cell phone away from him.

“No, you are going to sit down, we call the other hospitals,” he said sternly. He looked at Ishizu. “Any luck?”

“No, he’s still not answering his phone,” Ishizu said. “And as we’re in the hospital, I don’t expect him to pick it up anytime soon.”

“We can make phone calls in this area,” Jounouchi said. “We can’t call on the intensive care, of course, but the reception area is safe.”

“But what if ustaaz Khalfani is brought to the intensive care?” Ishizu asked worriedly.

Jounouchi tried to be as level-headed as possible. “I don’t think so,” he said. “They probably took him to the ER first, and then they’ll decide where he needs to go to, for proper care.”

“Yuugi’s about to explode from anxiety,” Honda commented.

“Poor guy,” Jounouchi said. “It should’ve been such a festive arrival.”

“We don’t know what happened,” Malik said, “but if they had to call an ambulance…”

“We’ll have to be patient,” Ishizu said, not liking to repeat herself. “We have no other choice but to wait until Rishid calls us. Let’s hope he can reach us soon.”

Yuugi paced back and forth, staring at his own cell phone, as if he could will the device to start ringing. Jounouchi came back with Honda after ten minutes, shaking their heads.

“We couldn’t find out if he was brought to one of the other hospitals,” he said, downtrodden. “He was either unknown or they asked us to call back later, to give them a chance to check their registers.”

“We’ll have to call back later, yes,” Yuugi said. “Thank you, Jounouchi-kun.” They all went to sit down in the waiting area, but Yuugi was too restless. He kept checking his cell phone, but there was nothing but a phone call from his mother, wondering why he wasn’t home by now. She reacted with shock to the news and asked if Yuugi would call her as soon as he knew more. He promised to do so and hung up, just in case Rishid would call. They waited and waited, and every passing minute took excruciatingly forever. Yuugi was nerve-wracked and he was glad that Jounouchi and Honda were there to support him, staying at his side without budging, unconditionally loyal. People came and went in the reception area and waiting room, and Yuugi saw many more ambulances arrive and leave. He didn’t know how long he had sat there, but suddenly Ishizu’s cell phone beeped - not a ringtone, but announcing a text message. Her face lit up with relief when she read the display.

“Room 43,” she said. “Let’s go!”

Room 43 was on the first floor, at the end of the hallway. Yuugi pushed himself to his limits to keep up with Ishizu’s firm stride; being short wasn’t all that much fun. His heart beat faster as he approached the room; not in anticipation, but in sheer anxiety. He was afraid what he was going to see. It couldn’t be that bad… could it? Still… Ishizu and Malik went inside first, and Rishid rose from his chair.

“Rishid!” Unable to hold himself back, Malik all but flung himself into the arms of his older brother. Ishizu joined him, putting her hand on his shoulder. Rishid involved her in the hug and Yuugi could see how happy they were to see each other safe and sound. He didn’t want to disturb their family moment and instead made his way over to the hospital bed. He curled his fingers around the metal frame and leaned a little forward to catch a look. Sure, it was Atemu; pale, eyes closed, hooked up to an IV. Yuugi saw the colorless liquid drip through the IV line and he swallowed. Rishid, towering over his family members, made eye contact with him and gently broke free from the hug.

“Mutou-san, I’m so sorry,” he said, his voice emotional. “I have forsaken my duty to look after him.”

Yuugi shook his head. He didn’t want to hear any of that; Rishid wasn’t at fault. “Rishid-san, can you tell me what happened?”

“We should not have taken Egypt as the last leg of the tour,” Rishid said. “We were already fatigued from traveling around so much, and touching the soil of our homeland was emotional for both of us... but ustaaz Khalfani took it especially hard. We went to see his parents’ grave, and after that, he just… shut down. He didn’t eat, drink or sleep anymore, and we had this insane, hectic schedule… he held himself together until we boarded the plane. After take-off, he just collapsed.”

“I’m so sorry,” Yuugi said. “That must’ve been a horrible experience.”

“No, I’m sorry,” Rishid immediately gave back. “I didn’t fulfill my duties. I…”

“That’s insane, Rishid!” Malik said. “You’re not responsible!”

“Malik, keep your voice down,” Ishizu said. “Maybe we should go outside the room for a while.”

“Malik-kun is right, though,” Yuugi said to Rishid in passing. “This isn’t your fault. You’re not responsible.” The tall man showed a watery smile, but didn’t comment. He left the room with Ishizu and Malik, opening up space for Jounouchi and Honda to come in.

“Sheesh, he’s really not looking well,” Jounouchi said. Atemu hadn’t responded to any of the commotion.

“Maybe a nurse can explain what’s going on,” Honda said. He left the room in search for one. Yuugi could barely look at the IV drip, so he kept his attention focused on Atemu, brushing the bangs out of his face.

“He looks so young,” Yuugi said. A nurse had removed the jewelry and he referred to Jounouchi’s earlier comment on Atemu’s appearance without the golden objects.

“Poor guy.” Jounouchi wasn’t the one to hold a grudge. “He really must’ve worked himself into a thousand directions.”

Honda came back into the room, followed by a nurse.

“Severe dehydration, light malnutrition,” she said. “Khalfani-san came in with a fever of over 104 and he was unresponsive to some of our tests. We immediately hooked him up to an IV for the necessary fluids, as you can see. We’re keeping a very close eye on his vital signs, but we hope the fever will wane naturally. If not, we’ll start him on antibiotics, but for now we want him to fight off the fever himself. Don’t worry, he’s perfectly safe here.”

“I don’t doubt that at all,” Yuugi said, grateful that the nurse was kind enough to explain.
“When can he go home?”

“As soon as his fever breaks,” she said. “Perhaps a couple of days. The doctor will want to run more tests, to rule out any infection.”

“He’s totally overworked,” Yuugi said. “He demanded too much of himself and he lived under quite some strain for a while.”

“I see,” the nurse said.

“And his ankle?” Yuugi asked.

“What about it?” The nurse tilted her head. “I know nothing about it. Did we miss something?”

“He sprained it a while ago and he never gave himself enough time to recuperate,” Yuugi explained.

“Hm, I don’t think it’s related to his current condition,” she said. “Let me take a look.” She pulled up the bed sheets, revealing Atemu’s feet. She frowned. “It definitely looks like it hasn’t been taken care of,” she said. “All swollen and red. I’ll the doctor about it, to see if he might need surgery.”

“Thank you so much,” Yuugi said and bowed to her.

“Don’t worry, your brother’s going to be all right,” she smiled at him. Jounouchi couldn’t help it, he hid a grin behind his hand.

“That’s what you get when you fall in love with someone who looks so much like yourself,” he said, teasing slightly after the nurse had left. Yuugi was too tired to even roll his eyes. He couldn’t blame the nurse though, but wasn’t the obvious difference in skin color that hard to notice? It didn’t matter. The most important thing was for Atemu to recover. Yuugi turned around to look at Jounouchi.

“I’m staying here with Atemu-kun,” he said. “You should go home, Jounouchi-kun.”

He shook his head. “We’re going to stay with you,” he said. “Did you really think we were going to leave you here?”

“I don’t think it’s according to hospital regulations…”

“Who cares,” Honda said, a bit brusquely. “This is a private room, we’re not bothering anyone else. Now, let’s get some chairs and blankets!”


It was getting close to midnight. Jounouchi and Honda, who had managed to find chairs and extra blankets in a storage closet, were asleep, brotherly leaning against each other and snoring softly. Yuugi was awake, ignoring the painful position he was in; half leaning over the metal frame of the bed, half sitting on the hard, plastic chair. His back was killing him and he couldn’t feel his legs anymore; still, Yuugi didn’t move a single inch. He held Atemu’s hand with his left hand, gently stroking his fingers, while he raked his right hand through Atemu’s hair. He felt warm to the touch, the fever flaring up again; Yuugi had been whispering nonsensical words, in the hope that Atemu heard him in his sleep and felt reassured somehow by his presence. He was about to fall asleep himself, though. If it weren’t for the uncomfortable position, he wanted to rest his head on Atemu’s chest and just sleep… but he noticed a very light movement, and Yuugi straightened himself, as far as possible.

“You’re awake,” he said, voice low.

Atemu faintly nodded, his eyes half-lidded. “Yuugi…”

“Yes?” Yuugi leaned into him, stroking his hair again. Atemu didn’t speak. “Rest. It’s all right. You’re safe.” The curator closed his eyes again. Yuugi shifted around a little, wincing at the pain in his lower back. The small light above Atemu’s bed cast an eerie glance through the room, stressing his hollow cheeks and his hot, flustered skin. “I can’t wait to take you home,” Yuugi whispered. “To take care of you and to make you all better again.”

The door to the room opened, waking Yuugi. The night nurse entered, a clipboard in her arms, and she widened her eyes at seeing so many people in one room.

“What are you doing here?” she whispered. “Visiting hours are over, you’re not supposed to be here!”

“I’m sorry,” Yuugi immediately apologized. “I wanted to stay with him, and my friends wanted to stay with me. I’m so sorry, please, forgive us.”

She pursed her lips. “You’re not bothering the patient?”

Yuugi felt slightly guilty and he realized that he still had his hand entwined with Atemu’s. He couldn’t care less about what the hospital staff might think, but he didn’t want to antagonize them either. “I’m sorry if I’ve caused any trouble. Please don’t send us away, not now. If he wakes up and doesn’t see me, it’ll confuse and scare him.” He was exaggerating, but for Atemu’s sake, he would’ve told the nurse any lie if that meant he could stay in the hospital room.
Jounouchi opened an eye.

“Something wrong?” He asked.

“You’re not supposed to be here,” the nurse said. “I’ll condone it for this night only, but you have to be gone by tomorrow morning. You have to keep yourselves to the visiting hours, just like anyone else.”

“Thank you so much,” Yuugi said. “Thank you.”

She made a noncommittal noise and continued to check Atemu’s vitals. “Fever’s gone up,” she said absent-mindedly and jotted it down on her clipboard. She adjusted the IV-drip before she left.

“Phew! We dodged a bullet there,” Jounouchi winked at Yuugi. “Did you get some sleep?”

“Hardly,” Yuugi answered. He stretched, popping his cramped joints. “You?”

“The chair is surprisingly comfortable,” Jounouchi said. “Try to get some rest, though. You’re of not much help to your boyfriend if you fall ill yourself.”

Yuugi nodded. “I know.” He leaned into Atemu again. “I know.”


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



A gentle tug at his shoulder woke him up. Blinking, Yuugi smacked with his lips as it dawned to him where he was. Honda held a bottle of water in front of him and he eagerly accepted it. Jounouchi stood next to him, carrying a few soda canes and packaged sandwiches. He put a turkey and ham one on the bed.

“I’m not sure when they serve breakfast around here,” he said. “Take it. You need to eat something.”

“Yes, thank you.” Yuugi peeled the plastic wrapper off of the sandwich, but the food wasn’t very appetizing to him. “What time is it?”

“Around seven o’clock in the morning. We have to leave for work.”

“Thank you so much for staying with me, guys.”

“No problem.” Jounouchi opened a can of soda and took a firm swig. He glanced at Atemu. “Why isn’t he waking up?”

“I think it’s the fever,” Yuugi said. “Fever and exhaustion. He was awake for a little while, just before the nurse arrived.”

“Well, he needs all the rest he can get. We’re leaving now, Yuugi. Call us if you need anything?” Honda patted him on the shoulder.

“I… I actually have a favor to ask of you, Jounouchi-kun.”

“Name it.”

“Would you mind swinging by the Kaiba Mansion and pick up Atemu-kun’s cello? Isono-san knows where it is.”

“I don’t think he’s in any state of playing the cello right now, Yuugi.” Jounouchi scratched the back of his head.

“I know,” Yuugi said sheepishly. “Could you bring it over to my house? When Atemu-kun comes home with me, I want it to be there for him.”

“Sure.” Jounouchi wasn’t too surprised or bothered by the request. “Leave it to me!”

Yuugi spend a few hours waking at Atemu’s side. The fever intensified and a doctor stopped by to start an antibiotics treatment. No one chased him away, despite him being in the room outside visiting hours. Yuugi stubbornly sat next to the bed and held Atemu’s hand. The hours crept by and he had started to doze off when Ishizu stuck her head around the door.

“Yuugi,” she said, “I should’ve known you’d still be here. How are you?”

“Sleep deprived,” he answered. “And a little shaky.”

Ishizu looked worried. “You should go home, Yuugi. Get some rest, eat something. Ustaaz Khalfani is in the best of care here.”

“I just can’t. What if he wakes up and I’m not here?”

“He’ll survive.” She didn’t mean it in a cruel way and added, apologetically: “He’s a grown man. He’ll understand that you can’t be chained to his bed all the time. You need to take care of yourself too, Yuugi.”

“Yes, Jounouchi-kun told me the same,” Yuugi said.

“You have very sensible friends.” Ishizu smiled. She held up a small bag. “I brought a change of clothes and something to read. I don’t mind staying for a while, so you can go home and catch some sleep?”

“I appreciate it, Ishizu-san,” Yuugi said. “But if you don’t mind, I’d rather stay.” He didn’t dare to make eye contact, afraid he was offending her with his refusal.

“I understand. Well, it looks like I’ll be keeping you company, then.” She took one of the chairs and pulled it close to him.

“How are things at the museum?” Yuugi asked, keeping his voice low.

“Chaotic,” she admitted. “We had anticipated ustaaz Khalfani’s return, not that he would end up in the hospital. His desk is covered with packages and letters, he has a scary amount of missed calls and I don’t dare to take a look at his e-mail. The board of directors wishes him a speedy recovery… with the emphasis on ‘speedy’, as a lot of executive decisions needs to be made about the exhibit and the museum in general.”

“Can’t you make those decisions, Ishizu-san?”

She shook her head. “No. My position doesn’t hold that kind of authority. I take over some of his work and responsibilities when he’s absent… but he never was gone or sick before. He never took a day off, he never called in sick. To be honest, I always thought that this would happen, sooner or later.”

“That he would end up in the hospital?”

“Sort of. Anyone working so hard and so long without a moment of rest, sets himself up for disaster. I tried to warn him that he was going to crash and burn, but he wouldn’t listen. There was always another hieratic text to be translated, always another exhibit, always another artifact… he drifted away from me, and I watched how he built those walls around him after his father passed away.”

“I’m sorry, Ishizu-san.”

“You don’t have to apologize, Yuugi,” she said firmly. “It’s not your fault, and it’s not his either. He never made a conscious choice to close himself off, he just withdrew into himself after his father passed away and it became harder and harder for him to open himself up again. I couldn’t reach him anymore… until you came along, Yuugi.”

“And made him trip and fall down the stairs,” he muttered under his breath. Ishizu held a hand in front of her face to hide her smile.

“Don’t blame yourself, it was an accident. Ever since he met you, he couldn’t stop talking about you. That you knew so much about games and how you helped him to choose the perfect gift for Kaiba-sama’s younger brother. I thought there was finally someone who could break through his walls… and so far, you haven’t disappointed me at all.” Her eyes traveled towards his neck, and Yuugi blushed. Atemu’s ring on the silver chain rested against his skin and he touched it, thinking back to the moment when the curator gave it to him. “You’re a good person, Yuugi. I wish this wasn’t so difficult for you… for the both of you.”

“I told him that I would wait,” Yuugi said and the next second he almost jumped out of his skin, as Atemu started to talk. Voice raspy and words intelligible, Yuugi looked in surprise at Ishizu.

“What is he saying?”

“He’s talking about his father,” Ishizu said. “I wish you spoke Egyptian, Yuugi. He’s describing his father and his home in Cairo.”

Yuugi patted Atemu’s hand. “He’s delirious with fever.”

“You could say that again,” Ishizu sounded amused, somehow. “Now he’s going on about how much he likes eggplant.”

Yuugi had to stifle his laughter, then turned serious again. “I wish I could bear his burden.”

“You’re doing more than anyone else could do,” Ishizu reassured him. “Go home. Rest. I’ll stay here until the visiting hours are over. No one wants you to crash and burn as well.”

“But…” His protest was faint.

“Go. Home.” She wagged her finger at him. “Go!”

“Yes, Ishizu-san.” Yuugi took one last look at Atemu. He gently pressed a kiss to his hand and with a heavy heart, he left the hospital to go home.


At the Game Shop, he sought out his grandfather first. He felt terribly guilty that the elderly man had to keep the store open while he had spend hours at the hospital.

“Yuugi, there you are,” Sugoroku said, sitting comfortably behind the counter. “You look like you haven’t slept in days… how’s Atemu-kun?”

“Feverish, dehydrated, exhausted and I think I forgot something,” Yuugi said. “I’m so sorry, jii-chan. I should’ve stayed…”

“Atemu-kun needs you,” Sugoroku said. “I feel fine, Yuugi. Sure, the work is more tiring than I remembered, but I’m not going to push any daisies, not for a long time to come.”

“Jii-chan, please…” Yuugi didn’t want to talk about sickness or death at all. “I’m sorry. I’m going to take a shower and then I’ll take over for the rest of the day, all right?”

“You go take your shower,” the elderly man said warmly, “but I don’t want to see you in the Shop, got it? You’re spreading yourself too thin, you should be careful.”

“You need your rest too, jii-chan.”

“I can manage,” Sugoroku said. “I’ll let you know when I’m in need of any help. Oh, before I forget, Jounouchi-kun was here on his lunch break. He brought something over that belongs to Atemu-kun. You should’ve told me that he played a Stradivarius, Yuugi. Those things are exceptionally valuable.”

“I didn’t know, jii-chan,” Yuugi offered his apologies once again. “Where’s the cello now?”

“I had him put it into your room,” Sugoroku said innocently. “I have the feeling Atemu-kun’s going to spend a lot of time there in the very near future…”

“Jii-chan!” Yuugi fled out of the store and ran all the way upstairs, almost knocking his mother off her feet.


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



“Yuugi-kun… please wake up, dear.”

“Kaa-san?” Yuugi yawned. He turned over to check his alarm clock. It was seven in the early evening and a bit confused, he looked up at his mother.

“Your grandfather thought it was better to let you sleep, but I think you should eat something.”

He could smell the miso soup in the bowl she was holding and the next second, his stomach grumbled loudly. Yuugi sat upright in his bed as she handed the bowl to him.

“When will Atemu-kun be released from the hospital?” she asked.

“Within two days, I hope,” Yuugi said. “I miss him so much, kaa-san.”

“You love him so much that it makes me worried,” she said, ruffling her son’s hair. “I hope he’s worth it, Yuugi-kun. I don’t know him well enough and I don’t want to judge him... but if he can’t give you what you want, if he breaks your heart, I’ll hit him with my rolling pin.”

“Don’t worry, Jounouchi-kun is waaay ahead of you,” Yuugi said lamely. “Great soup, kaa-san.”

“We all love you and want the best for you.”

“Atemu-kun is the best for me,” Yuugi said, confident. “I love him, kaa-san, and he loves me too. He’s just not the kind of person to scream it from the rooftops.”

“I understand, dear. Your father was… is the same way. That’s why I’m worried. I don’t want you to end up like me; alone and wondering what I did wrong.”

“You did nothing wrong, kaa-san!” Yuugi almost dropped his bowl, aghast at the thought that his mother was blaming herself for the unhappy situation of her marriage. “He made a conscious choice to be away on ‘business trips’, not caring for the family he left behind!”

“I don’t want the same happening to you,” she repeated. “You deserve all the love and happiness in the world, Yuugi-kun. I know that Atemu-kun is very dedicated to his work, and when he stayed here for the first time… I could feel his distance, you know? It was like he had locked himself up in a tower and he was trying to reach for you, but he didn’t know how.”

Yuugi fell silent. What was he supposed to do? Give up on Atemu, the man he loved? He was so sure that he could reach him, that it was possible for him to bring down all his walls and peel away that protective shield - but what if Jounouchi was right, what if his mother was right? That he was setting himself up for a world of pain, having fallen in love with someone who wasn’t able to reach him, to give back what he took?

“At least he tried to reach for me,” Yuugi said, slightly downtrodden. He finished the soup and his mother took the bowl back. She ruffled his hair once more.

“Get some rest. I’ll wake you up tomorrow morning.”

“Good night, kaa-san.”

“Good night, Yuugi-kun.”

He rolled himself into the sheets and dutifully closed his eyes. Sleep came very quickly fortunately, but his dreams were riddled with dark, faceless monsters that haunted his restless mind. He woke up a couple of times only to fall back asleep again; when it was early in the morning, he was wide awake and with an annoyed sigh, he stared at his alarm clock. He did feel rested, so he pushed the blankets and sheets away and rolled out of bed. Yuugi checked his cell phone and noticed he had missed a few calls; he had set the device to silence, so no wonder he hadn’t heard the ringtone. He scrolled through the list: a few calls from Jounouchi, Honda and one from Ishizu. She had left a voice message, telling him that Atemu’s fever had gone down and that the doctor wanted him to finish the antibiotics. Relieved, Yuugi dressed himself and decided to go to downstairs and help out with breakfast. He ran into his grandfather in the kitchen.

“Good morning, jii-chan,” he said. “You’re up awfully early.”

“I figured you wanted to go to the hospital today,” Sugoroku said. “I want to sweep the floor and the entrance before I start my day.”

“I’ll be gone for the visiting hours,” Yuugi admitted. “I’ll be here the rest of the day, all right?”

“It’s all right, Yuugi. You take your time. Don’t feel guilty, or I’ll feel guilty.”

“I just don’t want…”

“We know what you don’t want,” Sugoroku said, pouring hot water in tea cups. “You’re the only person who knows what he wants… I can only guess that right now, you want to be with Atemu-kun. That’s not rocket science.”

“I can’t forsake my duties as Game Shop employee,” Yuugi said. “I still have to take a look at the new designs for the Duel Disk 2.0 as well…”

Sugoroku added the green tea leaves to the tea strainer. “I’m sure Kaiba knows about the entire situation. He’s a strict employer, but even he’ll go easy when sickness is involved. He knows Atemu as he was his guest, this isn’t some kind of flimsy excuse to get out of work.”

“True,” Yuugi admitted. “Even so, jii-chan, I’ll make up for it as soon as everything’s back to normal.”

“I know, Yuugi. Like I said, it’s all right. Don’t feel guilty. But if you truly want to make up for it, be prepared to fetch my slippers and give me a lot of foot rubs!”

“Jii-chan! How about I make tea for you? Lots and lots of tea?”

“You’re the worst grandson,” Sugoroku muttered but winked at him. “I rather want you to whip up some scrambled eggs.”

“I can do that!” Relieved, he went in search for the eggs.


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



“Good morning,” Yuugi said when he walked into the hospital room 43. “Well, look at you! All fancy and dressed up!”

“Good morning,” Atemu returned the greeting, his voice slightly hoarse. He was sitting up straight, supported by a bunch of pillows. Two large, golden earrings dangled from his earlobes and he was also wearing his rings. He had changed into a simple white shirt and a pair of fluffy, black pants, all taken from the overnight bag Ishizu had brought along.

“You look like a king,” Yuugi said. “Or better yet, a Pharaoh. Who did you have to bribe to get to wear your jewelry?”

“I asked the nurse,” Atemu said. “I told her that, according to traditional customs of my homeland, it was against rules and regulations for me not to wear any jewelry.”

“You sneak.” Yuugi walked up to him and kissed him on the forehead. “Your fever broke. I’m so glad.”

“I feel much better,” Atemu confirmed. “I barely recall the last two days. I was really out of it, as people say.”

Yuugi pulled up the chair. “Did the doctor tell you when you can leave?”

“He wants me to keep one more night, just to be safe.”

“All right. That leaves me some time to make preparations for your arrival.”

“You have been here, waking over me,” Atemu said. “Thank you.”

“I wasn’t here every night,” Yuugi said, feeling guilty. “Only people in the ICU are allowed to have family or loved ones over, outside visiting hours.”

“I clearly recall seeing you here,” Atemu said, adorably confused.

“You were praising eggplants in your feverish dreams,” Yuugi teased him. He held up his hand and stroked Atemu’s blushing cheek. Pleased that he immediately leaned into his touch, Yuugi scooted a little closer.

“I dislike it here,” Atemu said.

“Did you at least manage to eat something?”

“A little bit.”

“I’m going to feed you nothing but whipped cream and cake when you come home with me,” Yuugi said. “You’re far too skinny.”

“I am sorry.” He put his hand over Yuugi’s. “I really disappointed you, did I not?”

“Where does that come from?”

“I…” Atemu started to pluck at the large band aid that kept his IV in place, and Yuugi carefully pried his fingers away. “I did not expect to end up in a hospital, and I guess it is safe to say that you did not either… you are always so strong and taking care of everyone around you, it makes me feel… weak and inadequate.”

“You had a rough time,” Yuugi said. “Rishid-san told me about what happened in Egypt. I know why you did it, but perhaps it had been for the better if you hadn’t confronted yourself with the last resting place of your father.”

“I wanted to see… I wanted to tell him… I wanted to say goodbye.” Atemu sighed. Yuugi looked at him. There it was, he could see it right in front of him: a bit of vulnerability, a bit of openness, and immediately it was covered up again. Right here and now wasn’t the proper moment to talk about it; later, perhaps.

“You’ve been under great pressure,” Yuugi said. “You worked hard, you had an intense schedule… and you didn’t take good care of yourself.”

“Guilty as charged,” Atemu answered.

“Let me take care of you,” Yuugi continued. “You’re coming home with me. I want you to get better, fully and completely better - and then we’ll take it from there.”

Atemu didn’t speak, but he tilted his head towards Yuugi, who leaned into him. They shared a soft kiss, lips brushing past one another.

“I want to be with you,” Atemu said. “You have made your intentions clear. I made you wait for so long.”

“I only want you to be with me if that’s your choice.” Yuugi kissed him again. “Your own choice, not driven by guilt, or fear, or sadness… your choice only.”

“It is,” Atemu breathed against his lips. “It is my choice to be with you.”

“Then you have to open up to me,” Yuugi said. “I can’t do this on my own, Atemu.” It felt weird to drop the honorific, but at this moment in their relationship, it felt even weirder to keep calling him ‘-kun’.

“What do you want me to do?” he asked.

“No, it’s not what I want you to do.” Yuugi raised his hand to cup his cheek. “I want you to do it on your own volition. To talk to me about your father, your youth, yourself, anything. To stop burying yourself in work and to start looking at the world around you. You don’t have to do it all on your own. Let me help you. There are so many people who care for you. But it has to come from both ways, Atemu. Don’t shut us out. Don’t shut me out before we even start. I waited for you, and I’ll still wait, if you need more time.”

“No, I do not need more time!” Atemu’s eyes widened, as if scared. “I have made my mind up. I made my decision. You, Yuugi, I want to be with you.”

This was as much and as close to an “I love you” as he could get out of him, or so Yuugi thought. He didn’t want to press the matter. Hadn’t he told his mother that Atemu wasn’t the person to scream his love from the rooftops? Then why should he force him to tell him “I love you”? Yuugi caressed his skin and smiled at him. “You’re tired,” he said. “Why don’t you rest, and I’ll come pick you up tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow,” Atemu repeated, content.


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



“Here we are. Jounouchi Taxi, at your service!”

Yuugi hopped out of the car, inhaling the fresh autumn air. “Thank you so much, Jounouchi-kun. You’re going to stay for dinner?”

“I never say ‘no’ to free food,” Jounouchi said. “Did your mother make enough?”

“I told her that you were coming over,” Yuugi grinned. “She probably made enough to feed an entire army!”

“Great!” Enthusiastically, Jounouchi opened the passenger’s door and held out his hand. “Are you all right?”

“I am fine.” Atemu looked slightly queasy though, as he wasn’t used to Jounouchi’s… exuberant driving style. Yuugi didn’t have a driver’s license so he depended on Jounouchi for any transportation by car. “Just a moment.” He reached behind him to grab his bag, but Jounouchi said: “I’ll take care of that. You and Yuugi go inside while I park the car.”

“Thanks, Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi said and he hooked his arm through Atemu’s. He beamed at the slightly taller other, as they walked together to the Game Shop building. Yuugi’s mother was waiting at the door for them.

“Welcome, welcome!” She said. “I’m so glad you’re out of the hospital, Atemu-kun!”

“Me too,” Atemu said, “the staff was wonderful, but I rather want to be anywhere else.”

“Well, for now you’re going to stay here, right? I have made nice, hearty nikujaga to get you all warmed up. Where’s Jounouchi-kun? I made an extra big batch, just for him!”

“He’s parking the car,” Yuugi said. “Eh, kaa-san? You’re blocking the door…”

“Oh, I’m sorry!” She stepped to the side, flustered. “Get inside, it’s too cold!”


“…and so I’m going to be an uncle soon,” Jounouchi said.

“Congratulations, Jounouchi-kun!” Yuugi beamed at his best friend, after he had corrected Atemu’s use of chopsticks. By now, he had the feeling that the curator did it on purpose, but Yuugi wasn’t going to complain about touching those long, slender fingers. Everyone else at the table offered their congratulations as well, even though it was obvious that Jounouchi was distressed at the thought of his younger sister being pregnant.

“That good-for-nothing husband of hers can’t even hold a hammer and nails,” he blurted out. “So she asked me to help out with the remodeling of the baby room!”

“We’d like to help too, Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi offered. “If there’s anything we can do…?”

“Can you turn back the clock?” He gruffly answered, staring at his bowl of nikujaga. “To the moment when she was still my sister who I could take to the beach and build sandcastles with?”

“That’s not really fair, Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi said gently. “Shizuka-chan has every right to her own life, like everyone else. I know it’s difficult to see her as an adult, grown woman, but you can’t hold her back. You’ll always be her big brother, that’s never going to change.”

“You’re right.” Jounouchi heaved a sigh. “But… uncle! I’m not ready for a baby in my life!”

“You still have a couple of months to get used to it,” Yuugi’s mother said, “I’m sure she’s going to be a wonderful mother!”

They continued to talk about children in general. Yuugi stole a glance at Atemu, not knowing his opinion on children as a part of their relationship. He wasn’t really sure if he wanted children or not, but it wasn’t a pressing matter. They had plenty to talk about, and Yuugi figured that the subject of children would come up sooner or later.

After dinner, Sugoroku excused himself and retired for the evening. Jounouchi stayed around long enough to catch a movie on TV with Yuugi and Atemu, commenting on the action and the kaiju featuring in the flick. He had great fun explaining the monsters to Atemu, who stared at the Godzilla-like creatures in disbelief. The curator had to admit that it was definitely very different than his favorite opera, which left Jounouchi to shudder; he didn’t have any affinity with classic art at all. Yuugi thought he had the best of both worlds: he had come to appreciate classical music, but he still liked his J-pop too. Jounouchi said that he was insane, but it was all in a joking manner. When the movie was over, he said his goodbye; Yuugi’s mother had also retreated a little while ago.

“It’s half past ten,” Yuugi said after he had shown Jounouchi out. He rubbed his hands as it was getting chilly. “I think it’s for the best if we go to bed early.” He realized what he said and blushed a furious shade of red. Previously, Atemu had stayed in the guestroom. Now it was more than obvious that he was going to stay in Yuugi’s bedroom, in the attic… something he hadn’t realized until now, and he felt his cheeks burn up. What if he said or did something stupid, while in bed? Was he supposed to.. well, act upon what he was feeling? He mentally told himself to knock it off. Atemu was barely out of the hospital and he was thinking about… less than inappropriate things. Fortunately, the other didn’t seem to notice his mental struggle, for which Yuugi was grateful.

“I long for a nice, hot bath,” Atemu said. “I can still smell that typical hospital scent all over me.”

“I can offer you a shower,” Yuugi answered. “Not as spacious, but comfortable and it gets you clean. Would you like that?”

“I love to.” He got up from the sofa and stretched, only to immediately wince as he put his weight on his weak ankle.

“Careful,” Yuugi said. “Can you make it up the stairs?”

“Yes, no problem.” With a slight limp, Atemu followed Yuugi to the second floor of the quaint Game Shop building. Yuugi waited patiently for him to reach the top of the stairs and guided him into his bedroom with the large skylight.

“It’s not as luxurious as the Kaiba Mansion,” Yuugi apologized. “The bathroom is just around the corner. Let me get you some towels.”

“Thank you.” Atemu started to remove his jewelry and put the earrings on Yuugi’s desk. Yuugi busied himself with the towels, slippers and a bathrobe and ignored the sounds of rustling fabric as best as he could. He handed Atemu the bathrobe and towels and managed to keep his eyes on his face, not on… the rest. For a man so private with his emotions, Atemu sure didn’t have any qualms about showing his naked body. Yuugi waited until Atemu had put on the bathrobe to take another breath, feeling slightly embarrassed.

“It’s just around the corner,” he repeated, face flustered. “Oh! Your ankle… should I get a chair or something?”

“I think I can manage,” Atemu said, “but if I am in need of support, what should I do? Call for you? Or…” he sounded embarrassed, “…you could take a shower with me...? You know... for safety precautions?”

It was a little bit of a relief to Yuugi that Atemu, despite his overall confidence, had some trouble with the current situation. It was hard for Yuugi to believe that the suave curator barely had any experience with relationships either; during their Skype sessions, he had admitted to crushing on a history professor back in Cairo, but he had never acted upon it. Everything between them was so fragile, so rocky from the start… but two different worlds needed time to merge together, and love wasn’t the only binding factor.

“For safety precautions,” Yuugi repeated and his hands went to his shirt, his fingers curling at the hem, hesitantly. Atemu was watching him and Yuugi fumbled. “I’ll be there shortly,” he said.

“I will go ahead, then.” Yuugi wanted to bust out in laughter, if he wasn’t so nervous. They looked like teenagers, fumbling and stumbling around! He quickly undressed and grabbed a towel for himself. Tiptoeing, he went into the small bathroom. The steam impaired his vision and he reached blindly for the shower cabin; he knew his way around, obviously. He slid the door open and hopped in, bumping into Atemu.

“There you are,” he said meekly.

“Where else would I be?” Atemu turned around and because of the tight space, he brushed past Yuugi.

“Your hair curls when it’s wet,” Yuugi pointed out. “That’s funny. Mine only gets sleek.”

“So I see.” Atemu ran his fingers through Yuugi’s hair, separating the wet strands and tucking them behind his ear. Yuugi shivered, despite the warm water cascading over him. Boldly, he pressed himself closer, just to revel in Atemu’s proximity. He had never seen another man naked before and he still kept his eyes on the other’s neck and face. It felt so good to stand like this, so close to him; tentatively, Yuugi slid his arms around Atemu’s waist and put his head against his shoulder. He was rewarded with more caressing; the sensation of Atemu’s fingers running through his hair was wonderful and he shivered once more.

His body relaxed, as neither one of them engaged into sexual contact, no stress or pressure to do something they weren’t ready for yet, both subconsciously feeling that now wasn’t the moment. Instead, they touched and kissed, fingers exploring, lips brushing bare, wet skin. Yuugi closed his eyes when Atemu kissed him in the crook of his neck, adding a new sensation to his heated body, and he clung to him, fingers splayed against his back. He reveled in the attention, the gentle adoration of a hundred kisses, all light as a feather and intense as the sun. Faintly, he realized that they should actually wash themselves instead of kissing and cuddling, lest they’d run out of hot water. It was far too tempting to continue and with great reluctance, he said:
“Atemu… pass me the shampoo, please?”

The curator chuckled, but did as he was asked. He lowered his head a little, and Yuugi opened the bottle to squeeze out a dollop of the product in his hand. He had to hurry as the water started to cool; they had spend so much time kissing that the water heating tank was drained. Shoddily, they quickly lathered and rinsed, using the last of the warm water to clean their bodies with shower gel. Just before the water turned icy cold, Atemu and Yuugi all but jumped together out of the shower cabin.

“Brrr!” He threw a towel at Atemu’s head and wrapped a large one around his waist. He only had one bathrobe and had deferred it to Atemu. It didn’t take them much longer to dry themselves off and prepare for bed. Yuugi gave one of his pajamas to Atemu, who was very amused by the star pattern all over the fabric. He thought it looked more than cute on the curator, the light blue color of the nightwear complimenting his tan skin color. He pulled back the duvet on the bed.

“Eh… which side of the bed?”

“It does not really matter to me,” Atemu said.

“Get in,” Yuugi encouraged him, stifling a yawn. He had to get up early in the morning as it was a working day tomorrow, and he had to finish his project for Kaiba’s R & D team. Atemu leaned onto the mattress and climbed into the bed. Yuugi followed suit and pulled the duvet over them, so it was cozy and warm. “Are you all right?” he asked. “Your ankle?”

“Do not worry, everything is fine.” Atemu’s voice was calm and soothing. The pale moonlight didn’t reach further than Yuugi’s desk, so Yuugi couldn’t see the other, just hear him.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you that Ishizu-san left me a voicemail. She comes over tomorrow to drop off your laptop and cell phone.”

“Ah, I was wondering how I could get back to w…”

“No, you’re not,” Yuugi said sternly. “You’re still recovering, remember? You can work in the morning, but after lunchtime you’re going to spend the afternoon resting. Don’t make me take away your laptop and cell phone, because I will.”

“I believe you instantly,” Atemu answered without sarcasm. “Where will you be? At the store, or at KaibaCorp.?”

“Tomorrow, it’s the Game Shop for me. When it’s slow, I use the laptop to connect to the KaibaCorp. network and continue with my projects.”

“The Duel Disk 2.0, right? You really have to teach me the game. Malik gave me a starter’s deck for my birthday, and you the booster packs.”

“I’d love to help you build a deck,” Yuugi said. “It’s really a wonderful game.”

Atemu was silent for a moment. Yuugi figured he had fallen asleep and turned on his other side, drawing up his knees. Not a second later, Atemu scooted closer and wrapped his arms around him as a big spoon. Yuugi almost forgot to breathe. Without asking, without nudging, Atemu showed him affection for the second time this evening: first the cuddling in the shower, now the spooning in the bed. It endeared him; he might not have heard the words “I love you” out of his mouth, but in his gestures, Atemu did show he cared for him. Yuugi moved his arms over Atemu’s, entwining their hands.

“Good night, Pharaoh,” he said, the latter title slipping out of his mouth before he realized it.

“Good night, habibi,” Atemu answered. With a big smile on his face, Yuugi closed his eyes.

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




Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 |

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