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. 10.000
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




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


It was amazing how quickly people could adjust to a new situation, or so Yuugi thought. In just a few days, his entire life had changed - for the better. Atemu was home from his travels and kept himself perfectly to Yuugi’s schedule: work in the morning, rest in the afternoon. Yuugi trusted the curator to abide these ‘new rules’ and didn’t take his laptop or cell phone away; Atemu wasn’t a child that needed tutoring. Yuugi didn’t want him to return to a fulltime workweek just yet, so he decided he could start with working three days a week.

In the late afternoon, Atemu would often join Yuugi in the Game Shop and they would play Duel Monsters when no customers were around. Atemu picked up on the game incredibly fast and Yuugi was excited to have such a strong, cunning opponent to play with. Malik and Rishid stopped by the Game Shop regularly; Rishid to drop off work for Atemu and Malik to learn Duel Monsters as well. When they stopped by, they would usually stay for dinner; Yuugi’s mother didn’t mind cooking for a larger number of people and Sugoroku enjoyed the company of the lively guests, his own mood and spirits lifted by their presence.

It was also amazing how quickly people could fall back into previous habits, much to Yuugi’s dismay. He had mentally prepared himself, yet he was still annoyed that so soon after his return to the museum, Atemu picked up more work than ever before and forsook his afternoon rest to answer the bazillion of emails, accumulated during his absence. Yuugi was torn between scolding Atemu or treat him like a child after all, tempted to hide his laptop and cell phone. He decided against it; despite everything, Atemu still obeyed him when he told him it was enough for the day, and he did close his laptop when Yuugi asked him to. He realized that his work was important to the curator, but still... their relationship was never going to get off the ground if they continued like this.

One positive thing was for sure; said curator was a cuddle bug. When it was time for bed, he loved to take Yuugi in his arms and to kiss and snuggle him for as long as it took for the both of them to fall asleep. He demurely kept his pajamas on, the light blue ones with the golden stars sprinkled all over it, while Yuugi wore either the top or bottom of another pair of pajamas. Yuugi secretly wondered if Jounouchi had been right after all, with his bewildered exclamation of “Are you telling me he’s a virgin?”. Perhaps Atemu was one, and that made the situation even more precarious. Yuugi found it hard to believe, but on the other hand, it wasn’t such a far-fetched notion at all: Atemu had mentioned his crush on a history professor in Cairo once, but never spoke of any other, previous relationships. He simply hadn’t been in a genuine relationship, not until he met Yuugi. How much more complicated could it get?

Yuugi really wanted to be with Atemu and he was convinced the feelings were mutual, but he wanted more than just platonic cuddling and kissing. They had taken showers together for crying out loud! Not only did he have to fight Atemu’s walls and defenses, he also had to fight the curator’s reservations about physical interaction to boot. Knowing Atemu’s huge sense of pride and his habitual self-defense, he would never admit to having no experience. Yuugi had no idea how to breach the subject; it didn’t matter to him if Atemu had any experience or not, it was about the next, logical step in their relationship. For now, he let it run its natural course; he enjoyed the cuddling and kissing too, very much even, and he wasn’t going to pressure Atemu into doing something he clearly wasn’t ready for.


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“I’m going to pick you up after five,” Yuugi said as he closed Atemu’s bento box. It was a Wednesday, which meant they both worked a full day: Yuugi at the Game Shop, Atemu at the museum, of course. “Here. I want you to return it, empty, to me after the day is over. You seriously forget to eat when you’re busy.”

“Yes, Yuugi-mama,” Atemu said and took the bento from him. “What about my vitamin intake?”

“Oh, but that joke’s going to backfire on you.” Yuugi showed a rather uncharacteristic wolfish grin as he retrieved a large bottle from the fridge. “Orange juice, freshly squeezed, so no artificial additives. Here’s your vitamin C, young man!”

“You are incredible,” Atemu said. Yuugi couldn’t make out from the tone of his voice if he was sarcastic or truly in awe. He leaned into him for a kiss and was ecstatic to receive one in return, on the lips. “I will see you after five.”

“See you then.” Atemu turned to leave the kitchen and greeted Sugoroku on his way out.

“Good morning, Yuugi,” the elderly man said. “Is there still some breakfast left?”

“Sure, jii-chan! What would you like?”

“Don’t bother, I can get it myself.” Sugoroku opened the fridge and started rummaging. “This looks good…oh, I certainly want a slice of that!”

“Jii-chan, I’m so glad you’re feeling better,” Yuugi said.

Sugoroku nodded. “I’m not sure what happened myself either,” he said truthfully. “But ever since you met your Egyptian boyfriend, things surely have been livelier.”

“You like Atemu-kun, right jii-chan?”

“As a choice for a partner, yes, I like him very much, Yuugi. Your mother is quite fond of him as well.”

“That’s good to hear.” Yuugi beamed at his grandfather. “But that doesn’t explain your miraculous recovery!”

“Don’t push it too far,” he grumbled. “I still need too much medication and care to my liking.”

“You’re over eighty, jii-chan…”

“I know, I know.” Sugoroku poked Yuugi in the chest. “My health isn’t perfect and I can’t work fulltime anymore, but I’m still around.”

“I’m very happy that you are,” Yuugi said.

“I’m very happy that you’re happy,” Sugoroku said. “I have to say Yuugi, I was a bit worried about you. I had hoped for you to find a partner much sooner, someone you could love and care for. It’s not easy to face life alone, and I wanted you to have someone by your side. It gives me much peace of mind that there’s someone you love, and who loves you.”

“Jii-chan, you needn’t worry.” Yuugi tilted his head. “Besides, you never remarried after obaa-san passed away.”

“Yes, but by then I had a family already,” Sugoroku answered. “And no one came even close to your grandmother, so I never bothered to look for someone else.”

“Jii-chan, were you really worried I wouldn’t be able to find a partner..?”

“It’s not like that. I mean… I want to see you happy, Yuugi, and your mother wants to see you happy too. You have friends, very good friends, but no one came really as close as a partner… and hear hear, I’m just babbling.”

“I understand, jii-chan. I’m sure I would’ve found someone, sooner or later.”

“I know, Yuugi. But I’m glad you found someone right now, someone to stand beside you.”

Yuugi just nodded and Sugoroku continued to rummage through the fridge to prepare his own breakfast. It was almost time to open up the Game Shop. Yuugi felt slightly disturbed, though. He had never thought or known until now that his mother and his grandfather had been worried about him. He knew his mother had been hoping for a lovely daughter-in-law and lots of grandchildren, and when Yuugi came out to her, the disappointment on her face was devastating. She had to say goodbye to her own dreams and accept that her son would bring home a same-sex partner, instead of a blushing bride. Atemu wasn’t the easiest person around, as distant as he was, but to hear from his own grandfather that his mother was fond of the curator, was very happy news. He was still a bit upset, though. Did they have so little faith in him, that he couldn’t face life alone? He’d talk to his grandfather about it later, now he had work to do. It was a slow day with customers, but he still made enough sales to call it a good day. After he closed up the shop, Yuugi retrieved his jacket and kissed his mother goodbye.

“I’m going to pick up Atemu-kun from the museum,” he said.

“All right, but don’t take too long,” she said sternly while waving a spoon around. “We’re having dinner soon!”

“Yes, kaa-san,” Yuugi promised and hurried out of the house. He took the subway to the National Museum and didn’t even need to show his pass; everyone at the museum knew him by now. Yuugi made his way up to the first floor, hoping to run into one of the Ishtars, but either they had a day off or had already gone home, as he didn’t see them. He knocked on the door of Atemu’s office before entering, pleased to find the curator behind his desk… but his eyes darted to the girl standing in front of him, holding a large stack of paperwork.

“I’m here to pick you up,” Yuugi said.

“Ah yes,” Atemu said as he accepted one of the files the girl handed to him. “I am not quite ready yet. The board has called for an extended meeting…”

“No.”

“As the curator of the Ancient Egyptian department…”

“No.”

“Due to budgetary reasons and…”

“No!”

Atemu heaved a sigh, but he wasn’t surprised by Yuugi’s protest at all.

“Khalfani-sama?” The young girl fidgeted, her voice sounding a bit nervous.

“Send the board my apologies, I am not attending the meeting, Keiko. I am going home.”

“But Khalfani-sama, they specifically requested your presence,” she stammered.

“I will read the minutes as soon as I receive them,” Atemu said. “For now, I am going home.”

“He’s already putting in more hours than we agreed upon,” Yuugi said, glaring just a little. He wanted to tell the board that they could stuff their precious meeting into a place where the sun didn’t shine. Keiko’s eyes went wide at Yuugi’s words and he felt sorry for her, as it wasn’t his intention to get her into any kind of trouble… but Atemu’s health came first and if the board disagreed with that, well, they had to go through him to get to their curator. Such drastic measures weren’t necessary at the moment, as Atemu grabbed his coat. Wintertime was approaching fast and Yuugi was wearing his own warm coat. He looped his arm through Atemu’s when they left the office. As they descended the huge stairs, Yuugi noticed that sometimes Atemu wobbled slightly when taking another step.

“Your ankle,” he said, frowning. “It’s still not healed up yet?”

“It is, but after a long day it just gives out on me every now and then.”

“Maybe you went back to your office too soon,” Yuugi suggested. “It might not be so convenient to work from home, but at your office you’re inclined to walk around much more and take upon more work than you intended to.”

“I know.” Atemu led him out of the building after saying goodbye to the employees.

“Malik-kun and Ishizu-san aren’t around?”

“Ishizu is at the board meeting and I believe Malik had a day off,” Atemu said. He all but hissed at the low temperatures and put his hands into his pockets, while Yuugi hung onto him.

“About your work,” Yuugi said, “why don’t you hire Malik-kun as your personal assistant? I’m sure you’ve got plenty of work for him and he’s capable of much more than just being a tour guide.”

They entered the subway station. “Perhaps,” Atemu said.

“Or Keiko? Maybe she can act as your secretary?”

“She is the secretary of one of the board directors. He will not appreciate it if I hijack her from him. What about you, then?”

“What do you mean, what about me?”

“Becoming my personal assistant?”

“Is that a joke, coming from you?” Yuugi wanted to kiss him on the nose, but they sort of had a silent agreement of showing very little affection in public. Walking like this, with their arms looped together, was more than he could ask for at the moment, and he was enjoying it very much.

“Oh, forget it,” Atemu grinned. “I would not be able to focus on my work at all!”

“Me neither,” Yuugi said dryly and the conversation was cut short as the subway arrived and they had to wrestle through the crowd to find themselves a seat. As they traveled back to the Game Shop, the subway was far too crowded and noisy to keep up a conversation, so they didn’t bother until they left at their stop and were out in the open again.

“Kaa-san made kare raisu,” Yuugi said as he inhaled the fresh air. “I’m famished!”

“Do you have any plans except for gorging on food?”

“No, not really. I’ve been on my feet the entire day as well. It wasn’t that crowded, but still..” Yuugi looked at him. “Why? Did you have something else in mind?”

“Ah, I thought we could watch a movie together,” Atemu said.

“On TV or at the cinema?”

“TV. It’s a political thriller,” he said. Yuugi took the keys to the front door out of his jacket pocket as they were almost home.

“Sure, why not,” he said, as he didn’t have any energy left but to watch TV. It was the middle of the week, just two more days until the weekend, and even though it hadn’t been busy at the Game Shop, the R & D team had emailed him lots of questions and comments and he didn’t know where to get the time to deal with it all.


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



After dinner, they helped out with the dirty dishes before settling into the living room. Sugoroku retreated early for the night and Yuugi’s mother went out to visit a friend. Atemu and Yuugi plopped on the couch and turned on the TV. Yuugi wasn’t really interested in the thriller, too boring and too little action - he preferred thrilling car chases and gun fights to complicated intrigues, especially of the political kind - but Atemu seemed to enjoy it, so they kept watching.

During the movie, Yuugi shifted his position and casually dropped his legs on Atemu’s lap. The more he was surprised that after five minutes or so, Atemu wrapped his hands around his sock-clad feet, fingers on his toes and thumbs on the soles, making circular, massaging movements. Yuugi refrained from moaning; how delicious! He wiggled his toes a little, eliciting a chuckle from Atemu, and he dutifully continued the massage. Yuugi lost his attention for the movie and reveled in the attention… until his cell phone rang. He had put the device on the coffee table and Yuugi had to contort his upper body to reach it. He picked up his phone and recognized the number on the display. Still, he said “Moshi moshi?”, just in case.

“Hey Yuugi, it’s me,” a well-known voice said.

“Jounouchi-kun! How are you?”

“Fine, fine,” Jounouchi said, but Yuugi knew his friend for so long that he could pick up on any disturbance in Jounouchi’s voice, no matter how faint. Reluctantly, Yuugi pulled his feet away from Atemu and left the living room, searching for a private spot to talk.

“What’s going on? Something wrong?”

“I’d like to talk to you in person, just you and me,” Jounouchi said.

“Something serious?” Yuugi asked, dreading any bad news.

“Something personal,” Jounouchi answered. “How about tomorrow evening?”

“Sure, you’re always welcome,” Yuugi said.

“All right, see you then.”

He had already hung up before Yuugi could return the greeting, and that worried him. Jounouchi would always make a quip before hanging up, and for him to end a phone call so abruptly was just… unsettling. Yuugi went back to the living room and plopped on the couch again, lost in thoughts.

“What is the matter?”

He was startled by Atemu’s inquiring voice. “I’m sorry,” Yuugi said. “It’s not like Jounouchi-kun to be this somber.”

“Jounouchi? Somber? Did he have bad news?”

“No… at least, I don’t think so. He wants to talk to me about something personal,” Yuugi said. “Just him and me.”

“Are you worried about him?” Atemu scooted a little closer and Yuugi was grateful for his compassion. Half of his worries were lifted because of Atemu’s gentle attention, and he nuzzled him.

“No, not really. Jounouchi-kun can take care of himself. However, he did sound like he was bothered by something.”

“If there is anything we can do for him, we will do so.”

“Thank you.” Yuugi knew that Jounouchi and Atemu hadn’t really warmed up to each other yet, but he was sure that in due time, they’d end up very good friends as well. “Dear, if it’s not too much to ask...Jounouchi-kun comes over tomorrow evening and he specifically said that he wanted to talk to me in person, so… could you and kaa-san perhaps go out? Jii-chan retires early for the night and when he’s asleep, he doesn’t hear a thing.”

“I understand. How about I visit the opera with your mother? We have been discussing the arts lately, and she mentioned that Il Barbieri di Siviglia is playing at the Domino Theatre. I will acquire tickets first thing tomorrow morning.”

Yuugi kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you so much, love. Oh, and thank you for the foot massage. I could definitely use more of those.”

“Well, if you keep up with the kisses, I will see what I can do about the massages…”


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



Yuugi opened the front door and beamed at his friend. “Jounouchi-kun!”

“Yuugi,” the tall blond returned the greeting and didn’t hold back when giving his best friend a warm, big hug.

“I’m so glad you’re here,” Yuugi said. “Come in, come in! Would you like something to eat?”

It was after dinner, but Jounouchi was known for his enormous appetite and could often eat an entire second dinner. He politely refused however, another reason for Yuugi to suspect that something serious was going on, as Jounouchi never passed up on the chance of food.
They went upstairs, to the living room. “I’ll make us some tea,” Yuugi said. “Jii-chan has already retired for the night, and Atemu-kun and kaa-san are at the opera.”

“The opera?” Jounouchi asked. “I didn’t know your mother was into that kind of thing.”

“Well, I knew that jii-chan likes classical music, but I never knew my mother liked opera,” Yuugi admitted. “I think it’s a great opportunity for them to spend some time together and to get to know each other better, seeing as Atemu-kun is...well, her son-in-law, so to say.”

“Things are going well between you two?”

“Sort of.” Yuugi had never lied to Jounouchi and he wasn’t about to start now. “I still have to keep him from working too much. I still have to pry at him to open him up. Sometimes he surprises me though,” and Yuugi told him about the spontaneous foot massage, “and sometimes he’s so clammed up that I can’t get more than two words out of him, for an entire evening.” He didn’t tell Jounouchi that there wasn’t much happening between the sheets either, that was just too personal. “In my worst moments, I’m about to give up. It’s so much fighting, so much effort. But then I look at him and I drown in those eyes, I feel how much he loves me and how hard he fights himself, to be able to show me, but he just doesn’t know how.”

Yuugi started his preparations for the tea. “But you’re not here to talk about me, Jounouchi-kun. There was something you wanted to talk about.”

“Yeah.” Jounouchi cleared his throat. He waited until Yuugi had finished making tea and they were both in the living room, cradling a huge cup as they sat down. “I… I don’t know how to say this,” he said. “I know you’re not going to laugh at me, but… well… I’m afraid I’m going to be the last one, you know?”

“The last one of what, Jounouchi-kun?”

“The left-over. The one left behind, empty-handed. To be alone for the rest of his life.”

“Jounouchi-kun…” Yuugi was shocked. “Just because other people are in a relationship, that doesn’t mean there won’t be anyone for you,” he said. “You just haven’t found the right one.”

“I believed that Mai was the right one for me,” Jounouchi said, sipping his tea “I fucked up, Yuugi, I fucked up big time and now she doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.”

“That’s not like Mai-san at all,” Yuugi said. “Maybe you fu… made a mistake, maybe things went wrong, but Mai-san would never shut you out.”

Jounouchi shrugged haphazardly. “She’s too busy dating Jean-Claude Magnum anyway.”

“She is?”

“I heard through the grapevine she’s dating him… that second-rate actor!”

“Jounouchi-kun…”

He heaved a dramatic sigh. “I know, I know. Mai’s a strong, independent woman and she’s an adult. She has every right to date whoever the hell she wants.” He sipped his tea. “I was suffocating her, holding her back. I wanted to settle down, and she wasn’t ready for it yet. Maybe I wasn’t even ready for it… maybe I wanted it too badly, you know?”

“How come, Jounouchi-kun? You actually never spoke in-depth to me about your break-up with Mai-san.”

“I was ashamed,” Jounouchi admitted. “We were having this on-off relationship, and I was sure we could make it work, that we could end up as a steady couple. I wanted to make it official, be it by marriage, or moving in together… something that would ‘define’ us as a couple to the outside world, I guess. I moved too fast, and I couldn’t understand that she didn’t move at the same pace. When she told me that she didn’t want to continue, I crudely said that it probably was for the better.”

“Jounouchi-kun…” Yuugi put his teacup down. “You were upset. People say terrible things in the heat of the moment. It’s never too late to apologize. I’m sure that if you pick up the phone and call her, she would listen to you.”

“If she’s really dating that Magnum guy, she’s not going to listen to a mechanic who has nothing to offer her.”

“That’s not true, and you know that,” Yuugi said sternly. “Mai-san isn’t interested in riches or famous reputations. I’m very sorry that it didn’t work out, Jounouchi-kun, really.”

“Yeah, me too. And now it feels like it’s too late.”

“With all due respect, Mai-san isn’t the only woman in the world.”

Jounouchi agreed, chuckling. “If she were, I’d be really in a bind! I just wanted it to work so badly, Yuugi. I didn’t want to be alone.”

“Do you feel alone?”

“Sometimes,” he admitted. “Sometimes I even long back for our High School days, when we spend all day together and didn’t have to worry about jobs and such. Look, I know that we couldn’t stay a teenager forever and that life isn’t all roses and rainbows. I was happy to have our circle of friends, to be a part of that…. but after graduation, it started to fall apart. People move on, they move away, they change… and yeah, I know that’s also part of life, that things never stay the same…”

Yuugi looked at his friend, patiently listening to him. He could understand Jounouchi’s fear of being alone; his parents divorced when he was just a young kid, and his mother had taken his sister Shizuka with her when she left. It was a traumatic separation, especially because Jounouchi stayed behind with his alcoholic father. His youth had been rough, and Jounouchi experienced the divorce as his fault somehow; feeling abandoned and alone as his family was broken up.

“Jounouchi-kun, even in a relationship you can feel alone,” Yuugi said. “Being with someone doesn’t guarantee that you’ll never feel lonely. You have to be happy with yourself, with the person you are. I know it’s a terrible cliché, but you truly have to love yourself before you can love someone else.”

“I’m pretty okay with who I am,” Jounouchi said. “I know what you mean, Yuugi. I don’t want to get obsessed about having a relationship or throwing myself head over heels into one, just to ‘be with someone’. I was a little down, feeling sorry for myself. You’ve got your curator, Anzu has married Otogi, Honda has Miho… it made me think about myself, where I stand, and what am I going to do with it?”

“You’re facing an existential crisis,” Yuugi cracked a lame joke. It made Jounouchi laugh, though.

“I’m only in my twenties! I should be partying and celebrating, instead of moping and feeling sorry for myself!”

“You’re not,” Yuugi said. “Moping and feeling sorry for yourself, I mean. I’m very glad that you talked to me about it, instead of bottling it all up inside.”

“Yeah.” Jounouchi stared into his teacup. “Weird huh, all these emotions, don’t you think? I never thought I’d feel alone, or left out. I never realized I was so hung up on having a relationship, and thinking that something would be wrong with me if I didn’t have a partner.”

“You’re not the only one,” Yuugi said, and it came out more bitter than he intended. “Earlier, my grandfather confessed to me that he and my mother were so glad that I had found a partner, someone to stand by me. He said he wanted to see me happy, and I know he means well, but it made me wonder if my own grandfather and my own mother thought that I wouldn’t be capable of facing life on my own, that I wouldn’t be strong enough!”

“I don’t think your grandfather meant it like that, Yuugi.” Jounouchi sipped the last of his tea. “He was genuinely worried for your happiness, and like many people, he equals ‘happiness’ with ‘having a partner’.”

“A relationship shouldn’t be the only thing that makes life worthwhile,” Yuugi protested. “It’s not a condition to be met to have a happy life!”

“Yeah, but you got to admit, a lot of things are better with two. You can support one another, be there for one another. Knowing that someone loves you from the bottom of their heart, that’s the most wonderful feeling in the world.”

“But I love you too, Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi said. “You’re my best friend!”

Jounouchi reached for him and ruffled his hair. “I love you too, you know that! But I don’t want to come across you in my kitchen.”

“You’re hurting my feelings!” Yuugi exclaimed dramatically and got up to refill their teacups. “I make an awesome breakfast, you know!”

“Atemu doesn’t realize what he’s got with you,” Jounouchi said. “I really hope he opens his eyes before it’s too late.”

Yuugi handed him his teacup. “That’s what I meant when I said that being with someone doesn’t guarantee you’ll never feel lonely, Jounouchi-kun. Sometimes he’s so far away from me that I have no idea how to reach him, or if I’ll ever reach him. On the other hand, he can surprise me with the smallest things, all of the sudden he does something spontaneous that makes my heart melt… and makes it all worthwhile.”

“I don’t like to feel lonely,” Jounouchi said, continuing the earlier topic. “I guess it really hit me hard when everyone found a partner, and I was... well, without someone.”

“It doesn’t make you any less of the good person you are,” Yuugi said. “A relationship doesn’t define you, Jounouchi-kun. You don’t need one to determine who you are. It shouldn’t be the main goal in your life.”

“What’s the main goal, then?” Jounouchi asked.

“To be happy with who you are. Don’t allow your happiness to depend on whether you have a relationship or not. I know, my words don’t take away your feelings of loneliness… but please, Jounouchi-kun, don’t throw yourself into a relationship just for the sake of having someone around you. You’re perfectly fine the way you are.”

Jounouchi was silent for a bit. Yuugi sipped his tea, gauging his friend’s reaction.

“I do understand, you know,” he finally said. “But it’s not easy. I mean… what do I want right now? A companion, or a lover? Friend or family? I just want to be sure that I’m not going to end up alone.”

“Unfortunately, no one can guarantee you such a thing,” Yuugi said and a little somber, he added: “No one can guarantee that people stay together either. My parents… what kind of marriage is that? My father is constant away on business, and he never calls in, never sends us a message. My mother must feel lonely about that.”

“I guess so,” Jounouchi agreed. “At least she’s got you, Yuugi, and your grandfather. I don’t want to wallow into self-pity, but sometimes I feel like I’ve got no one left… someone close, I mean. Shizuka is with her husband, my mother and I aren’t on speaking terms and my father… well…” he shivered, “I don’t want to see him again, ever.”

“I see what you mean.” Yuugi wished he could comfort his friend better. “Please don’t forget that you’ve got your friends. We’ll always be there for you, with or without partner.”

“Of course! I would never forget that! Sorry, I made it sound like I was really ungrateful for you guys. Which I’m not… you’re the best friends someone could ever wish for! I just got a little jealous… of you all being together with someone else…”

“I’m sorry, Jounouchi-kun, I wish I could change the situation for you.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about,” Jounouchi said. “Maybe I can patch up things with Mai, but I think it’s more important that I learn to accept how to deal with feeling lonely, and that it’s not my fault.”

“Why would you think it’s your fault? Because of your parents’ divorce?”

He nodded. “When my mother left with Shizuka, I thought she was mad at me, and that she was punishing me by taking my sister away from me. She abandoned me, left me in the ‘care’ of a drunk father, and I wondered for years what I did wrong, what had I done to chase my own mother away… Later, I realized their marriage had never been a good one, but I didn’t have that knowledge when I was younger. As a kid, you automatically put the blame on yourself. And that’s where, deep down, I still blame myself for not being able to hold a relationship, or maybe I even think I’m not worthy of a partner.”

“That’s some heavy stuff, Jounouchi-kun.” Yuugi wrapped his hands around the teacup. As the evening progressed, they kept talking, mostly about loneliness and abandonment. Jounouchi talked a lot about his parents’ dramatic divorce and how it influenced him, and Yuugi tried to reassure him that not every marriage was a bad one. He could understand very well though, that with such a bad example in Jounouchi’s younger days, his friend had developed a couple of issues concerning relationships in general.

Jounouchi stayed for a couple of hours until he got tired of talking about the subject. Yuugi was glad that his best friend felt comfortable enough to pour his heart out to him. These matters were important, and he hated the thought that Jounouchi was dealing with this all on his own, with no one to talk to, so he was grateful that he had come to him. Before Jounouchi left for his apartment, they watched a silly detective series on TV to lift up the mood and after saying goodbye, Jounouchi had his usual air around him: upbeat, confident and strong.


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



The opera was an evening-filling program and Yuugi was too tired to wait up for Atemu and his mother. They would take a taxi home, so he had nothing to worry about. He felt drained and decided to go to bed, it was late anyway. Yuugi undressed himself and took care of everything: brushing his teeth, combing his hair etc., and turned off the lights in the bathroom. He checked up quickly on his grandfather -sound asleep- and hurried up the stairs to his bedroom. Yuugi didn’t fall asleep as fast as he hoped too.

He replayed his conversation with Jounouchi in his mind and though the evening had ended on a positive note, he was actually quite saddened to learn that Jounouchi felt lonely and hadn’t spoken up about it until now. He wished his friend would find happiness, be it on his own or with someone, because Yuugi wanted him to have a loving, happy life for as long as possible. Far after midnight he fell asleep, but Yuugi had always been somewhat of a light sleeper; he woke up when a familiar weight settled behind him in bed.

“Hey,” Yuugi said softly. “I didn’t hear you come home.”

“I did not want to wake you.” He pressed a kiss onto Yuugi’s neck. “It is very late.”

“How was the opera?”

“It was truly an amazing experience, habibi. I really liked it.”

“I’m glad.” Yuugi turned around to face Atemu. Through the skylight, which he had never bothered to cover up with a curtain or blinds, the moon shone upon Atemu’s face just enough to highlight his contours.

“You’re so beautiful,” Yuugi whispered. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Atemu brought up his hand and put it on Yuugi’s cheek. “Is something bothering you?”

“Why do you ask?”

“You look a little sad. Does it have something to do with Jounouchi?”

“Yes. He told me…” Yuugi hesitated. Jounouchi hadn’t asked him not to share, but the conversation had been quite personal. “He doubted himself.”

“He should not,” Atemu said. “He is a very good person, with lots of qualities.”

Yuugi was sure that Jounouchi would’ve loved to hear that, especially coming from Atemu. Their friendship was still a little rocky, but Jounouchi had accepted Atemu as Yuugi’s partner, and Atemu had accepted him as Yuugi’s best friend.

“It’s late,” Yuugi said. “You want to sleep.”

“I would prefer to,” Atemu answered. “But if you want to talk, I will stay awake and listen to you.”

“It’s okay,” Yuugi said and pressed a kiss to Atemu’s lips. “Go to sleep.” Atemu didn’t need more encouragement and his eyes already slid close. It took much longer for Yuugi to fall asleep and he spend some time comfortably looking at his partner, gently stroking his cheek.


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



The next couple of days kept Yuugi occupied with work for KaibaCorp.’s R & D team. Kaiba was a very demanding employer, and after he coincidentally found out that Yuugi liked to design cards for the Duel Monsters game - and he was quite proficient at it - the CEO demanded new designs as well. Working at the Game Shop and fulfilling his obligations for the R & D team left Yuugi pretty much drained every day and he was glad to cuddle up to Atemu at night and receive a couple of kisses before he fell asleep.

He was worried about Jounouchi nonetheless and made sure to invite his friend over as much as possible. He’d love to be able to give Jounouchi a girlfriend but alas, that wasn’t in his power. Jounouchi wasn’t depressed over the ordeal though, and he enjoyed spending time with Yuugi and Atemu, with whom the friendship quickly improved. While Yuugi was so occupied and working hard, his ‘supervision’ over Atemu slipped a little and the curator picked up more and more hours at the museum again. Late in the Wednesday afternoon, he even had a secretary call Yuugi that he had to attend a very important board meeting; he would be home late. Yuugi was too tired to get upset about it, but it annoyed him.

He waited up for Atemu that evening, not to scold him, but to welcome the man he loved home. Atemu had his own key to the front door by now, and when Yuugi heard it open, he shot up straight in his chair. It took Atemu quite a while to get upstairs, showing how tired he was. When he entered the living room though, his soft smile as soon as he saw Yuugi was so sweet and kind, that Yuugi almost forgot his annoyance right away. Almost.

“You’re finally home,” he said.

“I am sorry,” Atemu said. “This was a meeting I could not miss. It was very important for the future of the museum, and it had to do with my tenure as well.”

“Your tenure? What do you mean?”

“Some changes are coming up and it was imperative that they were discussed.”

“What kind of changes? Are you losing your job?” Yuugi asked, fearing the worst.

“No, I do not have to be afraid of losing my job,” Atemu said and he sat down. He was used to Yuugi snuggling up to him and he didn’t have to wait for long. He moved his arms around Yuugi for a cozy embrace. He heaved a sigh. “A lot of talk, but no decisions yet. Typical.”

“You sound irritated.”

“M-mh.”

“That’s not an answer.”

“I know. We are both tired, habibi.”

“That’s true. We’ll talk about it tomorrow, all right?”

“Tomorrow it is,” Atemu said and pressed a kiss to his forehead.

“Did you at least remember to eat?” Yuugi asked.

“The board was kind enough to provide catering.” Atemu shifted a little to tighten his grip on Yuugi. He already had noticed that he wasn’t going to get much out of the curator this evening, and he wasn’t in the mood to prod and pry. Yuugi simply enjoyed the attention he was given, and they exchanged kisses and cuddled until it was time for bed.


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



Another week went by before Yuugi finally found some time to take a breather. The reason why Kaiba was pushing so hard for new card designs and his input on the latest Duel Disk technology was because he wanted it to be ready before the end of the year holiday season, for commercial sales. It was the start of November and the team was already running behind; no matter how much Kaiba yelled, his employees were humans and they worked already as hard and as fast as they could. Yuugi finished putting together his comments and designs and send them off through the KaibaCorp. network. Today was a Game Shop day, but whenever there was a lull in business, he would pull the laptop towards him and work on R & D.. The door bell chimed and Yuugi shoved the device away.

“Irrashai! Oh, it’s you, Malik-kun! You haven’t been here for a while!” He was genuinely happy to see the tour guide again.

“Sorry about that,” Malik said as he retrieved his Duel Monsters deck from his pocket. Yuugi picked up his own deck and the board game. It was quiet, and Malik never minded if Yuugi had to interrupt a game to help out a customer, using the opportunity to formulate or adjust his strategy. He’d never been able to beat Yuugi at the game, but that never stopped him from trying. “I really wanted to come over sooner, but some big changes are going on.”

“Yes, I know. Atemu mentioned it,” Yuugi said, albeit a little sourly as he was reminded that the curator had only mentioned it, and hadn’t gone into any details. Neither one of them had followed up on it the next morning, too consumed by their work.

Malik shuffled Yuugi’s deck. “The board wants to restructure the entire Ancient Egyptian exhibit, they want it to be interactive and more ‘attractive’, as they call it.”

“So… that would mean you’d lose your job?” Yuugi asked, horrified as he shuffled Malik’s cards. “They’re not canceling the tours, are they?”

Malik shrugged, but it was apparent that the idea distressed him. Despite complaining about the job, he didn’t want to lose it. “Ishizu is terribly upset. She wants me to hold down a job, but she can’t go against the board if they decide to move positions around.”

Yuugi couldn’t imagine the calm and collected Ishizu being upset, so he knew it had to greatly affect her.

“What is it that you’d like to do, Malik-kun?”

He widened his eyes a little bit, as if the question took him by surprise. No one had probably asked him this before. “I’d like to stay in one place for a while, and go to college. I never got the chance to, back in Cairo.”

“Why not? What’s keeping you from going to college?”

“Because we’re following Khalfani.” Malik didn’t meet Yuugi’s eyes. “We owe him a lot and Ishizu thinks that we should go where he’s going. We’ve been to several countries in Europe and now we’re in Japan. But if his tenure is terminated or he decides to take up his belongings and move to Siberia for example, we have to follow. At least, that’s what Ishizu wants us to do.”

“Atemu wouldn’t do so without a good reason,” Yuugi said. They had shuffled each other’s deck and put it into position, next to the board. A chill went through his veins. What if Atemu decided to move? Yuugi didn’t know what to answer if Atemu asked him to follow him…he had his family and friends here, certainly Atemu wouldn’t expect him to leave them all behind? “Do you want me to talk to him about it?”

Malik drew a handful of cards. “I don’t want to put any stress on your relationship,” he said. “I love my sister, but I wish she didn’t hang up our entire future to whatever decision Khalfani takes. I’m not sure if he’s even aware of it, I think he just assumes us Ishtars to follow him because of his position. I don’t know. Let’s just play the game.”

“Sure.” Yuugi looked at the cards in his hand, a strategy already formulating up in his mind. Were all Egyptians so private with their emotions? Malik didn’t like to talk about what was going on either, covering it up with his usual bravado. Yuugi chalked it up to stress. No one liked insecurity when it concerned their job, and he didn’t want to spoil the mood. He concentrated on the game to make sure Malik had fun, but that didn’t mean he was going easy on him.


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



Later that afternoon, Yuugi closed up shop. No customer had come in for the rest of the day, the sales dramatically low. He was very glad he had a steady job with KaibaCorp., otherwise he wouldn’t be able to make ends meet. Of course Atemu contributed financially to the household, but Yuugi’s mother handled the bills and as long as she didn’t complain, he assumed everything could be paid for. This evening, his mother had stepped out for the night and Sugoroku was visiting a couple of friends close in the neighborhood to catch up with them.

He had the house to himself; Yuugi cracked his knuckles. This was an excellent opportunity to have a good conversation with a certain curator. To avoid too much tension at the start of the evening, Yuugi first cooked a nice meal. He checked at what time Atemu would be home, to time dinner perfectly. He set the table and added a few candles to it, to create a cozy atmosphere. Just as he was done lighting them, he heard the key turn around in the front door. It wouldn’t take long for Atemu to get upstairs and Yuugi waited for him, excitedly and impatiently.

“There you are,” he exclaimed as soon as the other entered the kitchen. “It was a long day again, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, you are right.” Atemu pecked him on the cheek. “I am so sorry. With all these changes as of late…”

Yuugi brought up his hands to cup Atemu’s face. “You’re restless,” he said. “I can see it in your eyes. Something’s bothering you.”

“I am a bit tensed, yes.”

“Let’s eat first,” Yuugi said. He didn’t want to start a conversation on an empty stomach or have the meal be spoiled by emotions running high, so he invited Atemu to sit down at the kitchen table. They enjoyed the food and talked about things that had been on the news, fairly neutral topics until they had finished and had taken care of the dirty dishes. Atemu went upstairs to the bedroom to change out of his suit and into something more casual and Yuugi waited for his return in the living room. He had prepared a nice pot of gyokuro green tea, made from tea leaves picked during the first round of harvest. It was an excellent blend and Yuugi inhaled the scent as he poured two cups. When Atemu returned, Yuugi patted on the seat next to him and the curator dutifully sat down.

“Here you are,” Yuugi said, handing him the tea cup. “Now, I’d like you to tell me about the tension at the museum. Malik-kun visited the store today and he was worried about his job, even though he didn’t let it show. What’s going on?”

Atemu sighed. “There are too many captains at the wheel,” he said. “They cannot decide which direction they want to take, concerning the museum and the exhibit. The board is extremely divided over its future; they want to innovate and modernize… and while I do understand, I do not want my Puzzle to feature in some kind of flashy laser show, just to make it more attractive to the audience.”

Yuugi had to smile at Atemu’s ‘my’ Puzzle, even though the curator hadn’t solved the artifact, but Yuugi had. He respected Atemu’s bond with the mythical artifact and he too shuddered at the thought of such a wonderful item being displayed amidst current-day technology, just to be ‘modern’. He expected Atemu to talk about his tenure, but the curator continued with different topics and even though Yuugi knew it was important, he was interested in something else.

“What about you?” he suddenly asked.

“…and so it is not… what?” Atemu was distracted.

“You.” Yuugi poked him in the shoulder. “I heard through the grapevine that positions were going to change, too.”

“Malik told you that? He does not know what exactly is going on, Yuugi. Not even Ishizu is involved with all the executive decisions, I am.”

“So what’s going to happen to your position?” Yuugi hated to nag, but Atemu was so often clammed up, it was like pulling teeth to get something out of him and Yuugi really started to dislike it. Was it so much to ask to open up, if only a little? Atemu was silent for a moment.

“The board offered me another position,” he finally said, his voice low. “I would no longer act as the curator, but as… a representative.”

Yuugi tilted his head. “A representative? What do you mean?”

“A museum official, sort of. I would be traveling around the world, representing the Domino City Museum, and forge international relationships and collaborations, and exchanges of cultural knowledge, artifacts and traditions. Like an ambassador.”

“I see.” Yuugi’s thoughts immediately went to Malik, who longed to stay in one place for a longer period of time. “Would you be taking the Ishtars with you?”

Atemu gave him a funny look, as if he had asked a question when the answer was so obvious. “I would not be able to do this work alone.”

“How long have you known about this? When did they offer this to you?”

“Two weeks ago,” Atemu answered.

“Two weeks… so that’s why you were so silent as of late,” Yuugi said. “You’re considering taking that position, weren’t you?” There was no reproach or anger in his voice, just curiosity and concern.

“I am considering it, yes,” Atemu answered hesitantly. “It is...”

“This is what I mean by ‘opening up to me’, Atemu,” Yuugi said sternly, interrupting him. “You can’t make that kind of decision on your own, not without talking to your partner!”

“I did not want to burden you with it,” Atemu gave back. “You have more than enough to deal with already.”

“I’m you partner, that’s why I’m here for!” Yuugi put his hand on Atemu’s knee. “I’m here to listen to you, to support you, to comfort you! Why would you want to make such an important decision on your own, without consulting me, without considering the consequences? Would you have taken on the job and expected me to follow you, giving up my home, my family, my friends?”

“I was going to talk to you about it, eventually,” Atemu defended himself. “I first had to figure out what I wanted.”

“And what is it that you want?” Yuugi asked. His stomach tied itself into knots all over again.

“I want that position,” Atemu answered.

“Why don’t you trust me to help you?” Yuugi asked. “You can’t make such a life-changing decision all on your own. Not if you have a partner. I can’t believe that you didn’t share this with me, Atemu. Not even one hint, not even one word. You didn’t even ask for my opinion!”

“Habibi, you…”

“Don’t you ‘habibi’ me,” Yuugi said, annoyed. “I’m right here and still you shut me out. I’m growing tired of your massive defenses, Atemu. I’ve opened up to you, and I expect you to open up to me. About work, about life, about yourself. We can’t go on much longer if you keep rebuking me like this.”

“But I…” Atemu looked confused. “I did not want you to burden with it. You were so busy with your own work…”

“This is what partners are for,” Yuugi repeated. “I don’t have to explain it to you again, do I? You shouldn’t have to deal with that on your own. I was here all the time. I would’ve been happy to listen to you and support you, Atemu. I’ve heard of the expression ‘no man is an island’, but you truly are an island. I’m not sure if I can ever reach you.”

Atemu remained silent. Yuugi could see that his words were affecting him and that he was mulling over them, but he didn’t offer any more comments. It was getting late and Yuugi wasn’t any longer in the mood for another discussion.

“I’m going to bed,” he said softly. “We can talk about this another time.” Without another word, Yuugi got up and walked out of the living room, not knowing what to think. He went upstairs to the bedroom, expecting Atemu to follow him, but he wasn’t really surprised to end up alone in the bedroom. Maybe he’d been too harsh? But this was the gist of their relationship, wasn’t it? Those gigantic defenses, that enormous distance… how much longer was it worth it to fight? He wasn’t a quitter, but his patience and strength weren’t unlimited. If Atemu didn’t learn to trust him, to view him as his equal and as his partner, why should he keep fighting? The curator had never been taught to interact socially, had no real experience with relationships, but the fight was turning into a battle, and Yuugi didn’t know how much stamina he had to continue. Love only wasn’t enough… saddened, he prepared to go to bed. He thought back to his conversation with Jounouchi. Even in a relationship you can feel alone.


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



On the days he worked for KaibaCorp., Yuugi designated the living room as his office, as he could lounge on the cushy sofa while working on his laptop. The Game Shop was closed for the day; Sugoroku wasn’t in good health to work anymore and besides, the store was generating less and less income. Yuugi knew he was postponing the inevitable decision, but he wasn’t in a rush as the family managed to get by financially. He had send an e-mail with several card designs when he heard someone coming up the stairs.

“Kaa-san?” His mother had gone out to run some errands, he hadn’t expected her back so soon. His surprise was much greater when he saw it was Atemu. “Dear? You’re home early,” he said and cringed at how it sounded like he was accusing him somehow.

“Yes, I decided to leave the museum early today,” he answered.

“Are you all right?” Yuugi asked.

“Yes, I feel fine.” Atemu moved onto the stairs and went up to the attic, leaving Yuugi wondering what to do. Go after him? Leave him be for now? He decided he was done for the day and powered down the laptop. Maybe he could talk to Atemu and apologize; he had taken out his frustrations on him and the curator didn’t deserve that. It was always better to keep calm instead of reacting irritably. Just as Yuugi got up from the sofa, he could hear the cello. It had been a while since Atemu had played the instrument, standing in the corner of the bedroom, neatly stored in its large case. Yuugi had figured Atemu wanted the instrument close for whatever reason, even though he hadn’t played at all, until now. It was quite the surprise and Yuugi’s first response was to go upstairs and join Atemu in the room, just to watch him play. He didn’t get very far, as Sugoroku had come out of his room and stood at the bottom of the stairs, listening with rapt fascination.

“Shhh,” Sugoroku said when he noticed Yuugi, “I never heard him play before. “Rachmaninoff, Cello Sonata in G minor, the Opus 19 if I’m not mistaken. It’s usually accompanied by a piano, but he plays it solo magnificently.”

“You’re the expert on classical music around here, jii-chan,” Yuugi admitted.

“It’s amazing,” Sugoroku said. “I saw Jounouchi bring the instrument over, but I never knew Atemu was this good.”

“He studied it to please his father,” Yuugi said. “He uses the music to deal with certain emotions.”

“I can imagine.” Sugoroku heaved a sigh. “Through music, one speaks with the soul.”

“But I don’t know how to interpret it,” Yuugi said.

“Just listen,” the elderly man said. “He’s pouring his heart out to you.”

“I…” Yuugi listened, but got frustrated. The music was wonderful, without a doubt, but what was Atemu trying to tell him? “It sounds melancholic to me. As if he’s mourning something, but he doesn’t know what.”

“And you just claimed that you didn’t know how to interpret it?” Sugoroku looked at his grandson. “I think you know very well what’s going on in his mind, even if you feel you can’t describe it.”

“I’m not sure, jii-chan…”

Sugoroku tilted his head a little and was silent, as he listened intently to the music. “I think,” he resumed talking while Atemu was still playing, “that he never gave himself a chance to grieve properly for what he’s lost. His mother. His father. Himself. He learned to depend on himself at quite a young age and when he grew older, he had his work he could bury himself in. He felt safe, comforted by his defenses, until you came along and tore at them, rattling them, even bringing some of them down. His entire world is crumbling down and it’s scaring him.”

“He’s an adult,” Yuugi pointed out. “He’s a mature man who can take his own decisions.”

“What does he know about family?” Sugoroku said, tone of voice sharp. “He didn’t know family until he met the Ishtars, and they keep a reverence distance to him. He didn’t have a partner until he met you. How does he know how to maintain a relationship when he never had one, let alone have experience with family or a life partner?”

“He needs so much time,” Yuugi sighed. “I’m not sure… I think… I know it’s worth it, but… it’s so much hard work, jii-chan.”

“It’s not easy, I’ll admit.” Sugoroku patted him on the shoulder. “Remember your own happiness, Yuugi, it’s very important. You have to decide for yourself what makes you happy. Whatever decision you make, I’m here to stand by you. Now, I want to enjoy the music some more, all right?”

“All right.” Yuugi smiled at his grandfather and he sneaked upstairs, to the bedroom. He tiptoed inside, but Atemu wouldn’t have noticed even if he’d come in with a marching band. Yuugi sat down on the bed as the other continued to play, running the bow across the strings, his slender fingers moving up and down along the fingerboard. As before, Yuugi was mesmerized by the passionate look on Atemu’s face, the way he was joined with the instrument, evoking that heavenly music, completely lost in the sonata. He was completely devoured by the music, nothing existed around him anymore, he was in a totally different world. Yuugi listened and watched him until the sonata had come to an end. With his eyes still closed, Atemu allowed the instrument to lean against him, his breathing slightly erratic as if he had run a marathon. Yuugi didn’t want to startle him, so he made a soft noise, a cough at the back of his throat. Atemu opened his eyes and turned his head towards him.

“I am sorry,” he said.

Yuugi arched his eyebrows. “Sorry? For what?”

“I should have asked your permission before playing. Maybe you wanted to use the bedroom yourself…”

“It’s all right,” Yuugi said. “This is your house as well, dear. I really enjoy hearing you play.” He shifted on the bed. “You’re talking to me, aren’t you? When you play.”

“I guess so.” Atemu looked a little flustered, like Yuugi had caught onto a secret. “I... I try to explain myself with words, and when that does not work, I will try music.”

“Explain, then,” Yuugi said, gently.

“I want that position,” Atemu said, “or at least I thought I did. The opportunity to travel, to meet new people, to get into touch with so many different cultures… it would open a whole new world to me. I was overwhelmed, and fortunately the board didn’t press me for an immediate decision. They told me to take my time, and I did. I am sorry that I excluded you, habibi. You are very right that I should have consulted you… but the answer already came to me, before I could ask you.”

Yuugi remained silent. Atemu rose from his seat and put the cello back into its case, his movements tender and careful as to not damage the instrument. He put the case upright back into the corner, before joining Yuugi on the bed. Carefully, he took Yuugi’s hands into his own.

“My home is with Ancient Egypt,” he said. “With the permanent exhibition in Domino City. My home is with you. I do not want to leave. I do not want to go anywhere without you. I told them to offer the position to Ishizu instead.”

“I…” Yuugi blushed. This was the best explanation he could ever hear, and it made him feel ashamed about his earlier outburst. “Still, you wrestled with that decision on your own, all the time. I just don’t understand. I mean, I think I understand, but it just doesn’t make sense to me.”

“I cannot offer you a solid explanation for that,” Atemu said dryly. “It is in my nature, as I had to do everything on my own for so long. I am not used to confer with a partner, I never had to take into account the opinion and feelings of someone else before.”

“But why didn’t you even ask?”

“For the reasons you already mentioned,” Atemu answered. “Your friends. Your family. I would never demand you to leave it all behind.”

Yuugi looked at their joined hands. “I demand a lot of you, don’t I?” he said, apologetically. “I’m so sorry, Atemu. You come from a whole different world, and I expect and demand you to fit into mine, and then I get frustrated when you don’t adapt quickly enough. It’s too much to ask, and I should’ve noticed that. Your grief for your father, your important work, a partner who wants to change you…”

“No, no.” Atemu pulled him closer. “You are not trying to change me. You are trying to teach me. It is not your fault that your student is slow on the uptake, and stubborn to boot.”

Yuugi chuckled. “You could say that again.”

“This is the part where you say that your handsome student is making great progress and is very diligent,” Atemu said. He looked Yuugi into his eyes. “But the truth is, this handsome student is not making great progress at all, is he?”

Yuugi shook his head. “You’re right, you’re a handsome student, but the progress isn’t that great.” He looked at Atemu from under his bangs, not afraid to meet his eyes. “But there is progress, and I shouldn’t have put you under so much pressure. I know you need time. I know it’s not easy for you. I just wish you would understand better how important it is for me that you trust me, that you share with me.”

“I do understand.” Atemu looked a little sorrowful. “Forgive me, habibi. I really do my best.”

“I know.” Yuugi pressed a spontaneous kiss to his lips and as he leaned into Atemu, the silver necklace with the ring slipped from his shirt. Automatically, he moved up his hand to touch it.

“My gift to you,” Atemu said, “with all my love.”

“I love you so much,” Yuugi said. “My gift to you.”

“The most precious gift ever.” Atemu returned the kiss, letting go of Yuugi’s hands to embrace him. Yuugi didn’t hesitate for a second to answer the gesture; he lost himself into the kiss, his faith and trust in their relationship strengthened again. No matter what hardship would be in store for them, they would overcome any problem together, he was sure of it. Any negative thought left his mind as he was too occupied with kissing and being kissed; he pulled Atemu even closer so there wasn’t a millimeter of space between them left. He wanted to feel the other’s heartbeat, strong and even; yes, that was the beat of their relationship, strong and even, and they would take care of any obstacle that came along the way. Content, he melted into the kisses, and neither one of them heard Yuugi’s mother calling them for dinner.


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




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