the_goldenpath: made by <lj user="colorcube"> (Yu-Gi-Oh! - Puzzleshipping fics 2)
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Title: Desher (part 3 in the Colors of Heaven & Hell series)
Fandom: Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters
Characters: Mutou Yuugi & Yami no Yuugi/Atemu
Prompt: # 11, Red
Word count: 8.940
Rating: PG
Warnings: shounen ai
Summary: Amidst the turmoil, the tournament comes to an end. Yami stays with the Mutou family, trying to adjust himself to the radical changes in his life and the people around him. But his dark past is catching up to him and he has to face a turmoil of emotions, along with Yuugi…
Author’s note: This is the third installment in a series of fics following the prompts of the Fanfic100 challenge @ LiveJournal, containing a color (red, orange, yellow, green etc...). The colors will be named in either Japanese or Ancient Egyptian (I’m not a native speaker, but I thought it fit the theme). ‘Iwen’ is Ancient Egyptian for ‘colors’. The entire series will contain fluff, drama, angst, some emo, waff, lots of friendship, strong!independent!Yuugi and dark!asshole!Yami (he’ll get better, sort of). Almost everything about the Duel Monsters game in this fic is made up by yours truly. I’m too old to learn the proper rules of the game, so I invoke my artistic license. Made-up first name for Yuugi’s mother: Sumiko. Please read in the designated sequence, starting with part 0 (Colorless). Feedback is, as always, greatly appreciated.

Key: ----- = scene change






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Dark. Darkness. Cold, so very cold. The only light in the distance was ironically Ra no Yokuu Shin Ryuu, the Winged Dragon of Ra, hovering in mid-air, its wide wings spread, eyes brimming with a murderous glare. His stomach tied itself into knots and bile rose up in his throat. Those eyes were nothing compared to the hate-filled eyes of Malik Ishtar, twisted and distorted, promising pain and death to anyone around him. The screams. The laughter. The taunting. I served you for millennia, Pharaoh. Now it is time you serve me. Dark. Cold. Light. Heat. With a loud gasp, Yami woke up. His heart beat like crazy, pounding in his chest as if it wanted to break through his ribs. Darkness, darkness all around him! No windows, no doors! No ray of light! He opened his mouth to scream, but only a pitiful moan left his lips as he registered pain; a throbbing pain in his hands. He didn’t understand what was going on, his body shaking and shivering.

“Calm down, mou hitori no boku. You’re safe now.”

Safe? The voice was familiar. Where had he heard it before? He tried to call up a face to connect to the voice… he couldn’t remember, but another thought popped up in his mind.

“Aibou,” he said. He didn’t know why he said it, but it felt good… calming, comforting.

“I’m right here. Rest now, my Pharaoh.”

Pharaoh? Before he could give it another thought, Yami sank away into darkness again, but this was a different kind of darkness; not cold and menacing, but the graceful, gentle arms of healing sleep.


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“How’s he doing?” Jounouchi sat backwards on the chair, his arms leisurely wrapped around the high end of the seat, when Yuugi returned from the guestroom. Anzu sat next to Jounouchi, looking worried and upset. Along with the rest of Yuugi’s family: his mother Sumiko and his grandfather Sugoroku, she had been told everything about what had happened, and she had listened with increasing surprise and disbelief.

“He has nightmares,” Yuugi said. “He’s completely disorientated.”

“No wonder,” Anzu said. “If he really spent that much time in that awful Shadow Realm…”

“It brought out the worse in him. His loneliness, his fears… it was strengthened by the magic of the Shadow Realm, and now he’s suffering.”

“How awful.” Mutou Sumiko had protested when Yuugi had come home with an unconscious young man, waddled in blankets and looking eerie similar like himself, but he had told her that Yami was going to stay, come hell or high water, and she had shut her mouth. What was she supposed to say to that? She had a million questions she’d like to ask, yet her maternal instinct had kicked into overdrive when she noticed the bandages on Yami’s hands and she had helped Yuugi to make him comfortable in the guestroom. “We should notify his parents, Yuugi-kun.”

“He told me that his father died at a young age,” Yuugi explained. He thought of the picture of young Yami and his father, one of his very few personal belongings. He had put the picture next to Yami’s bed. “He never mentioned his mother, so I’m assuming she’s not in his life anymore either. His bodyguards are gone. He has no one.”

“Gone? Dead,” Jounouchi muttered under his breath. Fortunately, nobody but Yuugi overheard him, and he choose not to comment on it. The fate of Yami’s bodyguards was just as mysterious and unknown as the Shadow Realm, and everything else that had happened in the last few hours.

“If he truly has no one, he can stay here,” Sugoroku said. “We can try to locate any of his relatives when he’s up and running again. For now, it’s best for him to rest.”

“It’s rather late,” Yuugi said, addressing his friends. “You should go home too, guys.”

“What about the tournament?” Anzu asked. “Is it over? Do you want us to help out, still..? Or…”

“I’m not sure,” Yuugi said. “I guess it’s up to Kaiba-kun to decide.” He stared at his backpack with the Duel Disk inside. He didn’t have enough points for the top five and Yami had the three God Cards… “I think I’ll just get back to work tomorrow. I can’t thank you enough for your help. I’m sorry I was such a huge burden on you all.”

“Are you kidding? You’re never a burden, Yuugi.” Honda patted him on the shoulder. “You’re right though, it’s really late. Now that your guestroom’s occupied, there’s no chance of us spending the night here.”

“I’m sorry, we don’t have much room available,” Sugoroku said. “I don’t mind having you youngsters over.”

“We have spare futons, we can put them on the floor,” Sumiko suggested.

“Thank you so much, but it’s all right,” Anzu declined politely and got up. She frowned at Yuugi nonetheless. “I’ll be back tomorrow to check up on you, mister. All that creepy Shadow Realm stuff… you can barely stand on your feet, let alone spend an entire day at work!”

“It’s all right, Anzu,” Yuugi repeated her words. “Don’t worry.” He knew he didn’t sound convincing, but he didn’t mind at all that she’d be back in the morning. She was a good friend and he loved to see her. After everyone had left, Yuugi helped his mother to get Sugoroku into bed. Nobody talked about the tournament. If it was really over, then he had missed out on winning the prize money… which had been one of his primary goals to participate. His grandfather really needed the surgery, his face was distorted with pain with every movement he made. Yuugi was tired. He needed to rest and bade Sugoroku and Sumiko goodnight. When he finally stepped into his own bed, he remembered at the last moment to set his alarm clock. He was gone before his head hit his pillow.


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Yuugi woke up refreshed the next morning. He jumped out of his bed and ran into the shower. He felt so much better than yesterday! After he had dried and dressed himself, he went to retrieve his Duel Disk from his backpack. Curiously, he turned the device on - only to be disappointed. He knew it deep down inside, but he had hoped for the better. The Duel Disk refused to access the Battle City tournament network, meaning that it had been closed. Kaiba had shut the entire system down and the Duel Disk only showed regular data, not those of other duelists or their location. His fingers trembled slightly as he turned the device off again. So much for the prize money and helping his grandfather out.

With a heavy sigh, he tiptoed to the guestroom. One thing at the time, he told himself. Gently, he opened the door and peeked around it. Yami was still asleep, lying on his right side. Yuugi noticed immediately that the bandages around his hands had loosened again. In his deepest nightmares, Yami would pick and tear at it, even if he didn’t want to. Yuugi made a mental note to take care of it later; he didn’t want to wake his guest up. Yami’s breathing was strong and even, so he closed the door again. He walked into the kitchen to start preparing breakfast; his mother wasn’t even awake yet. Yuugi figured she had probably lied awake for the entire night, after everything that had happened.

As he handled the usual breakfast routine, his thoughts went back to Yami and in particular, their kisses. What did those kisses mean? Could he even take them serious? Yami had been under the influence of strong painkillers and he was emotional and not himself, so soon after his return from the dreaded Shadow Realm. Maybe he didn’t remember the kisses, had it all been a blur to him… and what if he realized his bodyguards were gone? Karim… Mahaado… if they were truly dead, as Ishizu had explained, Yuugi felt intensely sorry. They didn’t deserve that fate.

“Good morning, Yuugi-kun.”

“Good morning, kaa-san.” Yuugi shifted the pan on the stove, hiding that she startled him out of his thoughts. “Would you like some scrambled eggs too?”

“I’ll help you, Yuugi-kun. We have an extra mouth to feed.”

“Yes, kaa-san.”

Together they prepared breakfast and Sumiko brought Sugoroku his, while Yuugi went over to the guestroom. Balancing the tray, he knocked on the door and opened it, even though he didn’t get an answer. Yami was still asleep, or so it looked like. Yuugi put the tray down on the dresser and approached the bed. He touched Yami lightly on the shoulder and shook him, very carefully as not to startle or scare the other.

“Mou hitori no boku, wake up,” he softly said. He hadn’t told his mother about how he referred to Yami. He reminded himself to call him ‘Yami-kun’ while other people were around. “Please, wake up.”

Yami shifted a little and he opened his eyes, much to Yuugi’s relief. “Aibou..?”

“Yes, it’s me. Can you get up? How are you feeling?”

Yami turned around, the sheets sliding along his body. He frowned as he noticed the bandages around his hands, and he touched the shirt he was wearing. “What is this? Where am I?”

“You’re at my house,” Yuugi explained, and blushed when he added: “I had to undress you. I couldn’t put you to bed with your clothes on, mou hitori no boku. They were far… too restrictive, and you need comfort at the moment. You need to recuperate.”

“Recuperate?” Yami’s voice was loud. “Why are my hands hurting?”

“You were attacked… what do you remember?”

“Not much.” He frowned. “I do not want to talk about it.”

Yuugi decided not to press the issue at the moment. “How do you feel? Would you like something to eat?”

“Where is Mahaado? He would make me breakfast.”

“Mahaado-san isn’t here anymore,” Yuugi answered with pain in his heart. “He’s gone, and so is Karim-san.”

“Oh.” It hardly seemed to register with him. Yuugi retrieved the tray and places it over Yami’s lap on the bed.

“Miso, scrambled eggs, steamed rice, tsukemono. Take your time and eat up,” he said. “When you’re done, put the tray next to your bed and get more rest. You need it. I have to open up the store now.”

“Store?” Yami looked confused.

“The Game Shop. Don’t worry, I’ll see you again at lunch time.” Yuugi didn’t want to overwhelm the other with information and besides, he had the distinct feeling that either his mother or his grandfather would bring their special guest up to speed. “I have to work. Just stay here and recover, mou hitori no boku.”

He left Yami in the guestroom and ate a quick breakfast himself, before he opened up the store. As he anticipated, not many customers visited the Kame Game Shop. The buzz and the excitement of the tournament were definitely over and everything returned to its old, dreary self. Even the weather refused to cooperate; it was grey and overcast outside, unlike the bright sunny days from before. Yuugi had plenty of time to think about Yami and their kisses, and of course, how to repay his friends who had taken such good care of the store.

He restocked the Duel Monsters displays as to keep himself busy. He had to check the books, but he already knew that the tournament had brought the store quite some profit. Anzu had brought the money to the bank, leaving a modest amount of cash in the house for Yuugi and his family. His friends probably wouldn’t want to hear of it, but he figured the best way to repay them was to financially compensate them for the hours they had worked at the store. Relieved with this solution, he doubled his efforts to restock all the empty displays until it was lunchtime.

Yami was asleep and Yuugi didn’t wake him. He checked up on his bandages, they were fresh and clean. Yuugi searched out his mother who told him that Yami hadn’t eaten much for breakfast. She admitted to cleaning and redressing the cuts on his hands. He thanked her for her efforts and tried to console her a little, as she was fairly upset at the depth and width of the cuts. He couldn’t tell her everything… as everything wasn’t clear for him either. Instead, he shared lunchtime with his mother, discussing generic topics like the weather, a TV show and her latest creative hobby, knitting.

As previously announced, Anzu showed up at the Game Shop, with Jounouchi and Honda in tow. Yuugi was happy to see them and they asked him how Yami was doing. He told them that he hoped to see Yami walking around on his own strength soon enough. Jounouchi scratched the back of his head.

“What were you thinking Yuugi, to take him in under your roof? I mean, he has no family, but perhaps there are others…”

“He was in need,” Yuugi answered. “I don’t think it was a bad decision, Jounouchi-kun. He’s been through a great deal.”

“You went to that Shadow Realm too,” Anzu pointed out.

“Yes, but I didn’t spend a long time dwelling in it, unlike Yami did, dueling a dangerous dark personality to boot,” Yuugi said and lowered his voice. “And I wasn’t attacked.”

Anzu put her hand on Yuugi’s. “We’ll make sure he’s welcome in our midst. Jounouchi, Honda?”

“Yeah, sure,” Jounouchi said. “Hey, I’ve got nothing against him, really. He’s just a jerk, that’s all.”

“You weren’t the friendliest either when I first met you,” Yuugi reminded him. “All his walls have been shattered, Jounouchi-kun. Everyone he loved and cared for, is gone.”

“Yeah, I know.” Jounouchi looked a bit embarrassed. “I’m sorry, Yuugi. Of course he’s welcome.”

“I agree,” Honda said. “The guy needs a new family and friends. We’ll be there for him.”

“That’s so great, thank you all!” Yuugi beamed at the group. “Okay, now I want to talk to you about something else. The last few days you’ve worked full hours at the Game Shop…”

“No Yuugi, you don’t have to do anything for us,” Anzu was quick to say.

“I would be the world’s worst employer if I didn’t pay you at least for the hours you worked here,” Yuugi said. “Please guys, I want you to accept this.”

“We’re not going to accept money from you, Yuugi,” Honda shook his head. “We did it to help you out.”

Yuugi wasn’t about to let it go. He knew that especially Jounouchi could use the money, as he was paying for his own tuition by doing several paper rounds, and any extra yen would be more than welcome. “I know, but you worked as full-time employees here for at least four days, and I want you…”

His sentence was interrupted when the door of the Game Shop all but slammed open, the doorbell chiming so loud that everyone was startled. That was nothing compared to the person they saw standing in the door opening.

“Kaiba..?” Jounouchi was baffled.

“Kaiba-kun,” Yuugi greeted him. He figured Kaiba’s visit had to do with the tournament. The CEO entered the modest Game Shop, followed by his younger brother Mokuba carrying a tall silver briefcase, and two men in dark grey suits: Yuugi recognized them as the official referees from the tournament.

“Mutou Yuugi,” Kaiba brusquely said as he swept into the store. “Where’s Yami?”

Jounouchi and Honda automatically posted themselves in front of Yuugi, but he wormed his way between them to face Kaiba himself.

“Yami-kun is upstairs, resting,” Yuugi said. “Can I help you, Kaiba-kun?”

“I want to know why you kidnapped him from his suite at the Carlton-Ritz,” Kaiba said. “He’s the official winner of my Battle City tournament, even though he didn’t give me the chance to broadcast the finals live, which cost me millions of yen in profits of the broadcasting rights. I want to see him!”

“I thought he was a jerk, but you take the cake and the cherry on top of it, Kaiba!” Jounouchi said.

“I don’t bother talking to people who couldn’t even make it into the tournament.” Kaiba turned away from him.

“What? Just hold another tournament, and I’ll kick your ass!”

“Let it be, Jounouchi,” Honda tried to calm his friend down.

Yuugi stared at Kaiba. He knew why he was demanding to see Yami. Jounouchi’s voice resonated in his head: Rumors go that he’s Kaiba’s ex-boyfriend. It made him feel uncomfortable. Yami… the other half of his soul… had been with Kaiba. It placed the kiss between them in an entire different context, didn’t it? Yami had responded when he, Yuugi, had kissed him… but once again, he was half in shock from the events in the Shadow Realm and half sedated from the strong painkillers. What if Yami had thought he’d been kissing Kaiba… his boyfriend? No, that couldn’t be. Yami had called him, Yuugi, ‘aibou’, unless it was some kind of nickname he used for Kaiba too. He couldn’t imagine that to be true. No, the kiss had been true, he was sure of it..! But still, his confidence took a blow, and he had to muster all of his strength to keep a neutral face.

“This way, Kaiba-kun,” he said.

“What? Yuugi, no!” Jounouchi positioned himself between Yuugi and Kaiba. “Whatever your business is, Kaiba, you can deal it right here and right now.”

“Jounouchi-kun, it’s okay,” Yuugi said. “He has a right to see him.”

Jounouchi looked angry at him, but his anger wasn’t directed at Yuugi. Kaiba brushed past him and with his large stride, it took him only a few steps to reach the door separating the store from the living quarters. Yuugi tried to shoulder the ordeal as best as he could. Without another word, he went ahead. Mokuba and the two men stayed behind in the Game Shop. Yuugi and Kaiba went upstairs. He wondered where his family was; his mother was probably running errands and his grandfather would be in bed; the elderly man would suffer a heart attack from seeing the CEO of the world’s largest game company in his own house! Yuugi halted in front of the door of the guestroom.

“I would like to ask one thing, Kaiba-kun,” he said. Kaiba looked irritated. In his eyes, Yuugi probably wasn’t more than an ant, a nuisance - but he had to ask him.

“Ask,” Kaiba said.

“If he’s asleep, don’t wake him. He truly needs his rest. He’s been through a lot.”

“Fine.” Kaiba reached for the doorknob himself and before Yuugi knew it, he had turned it and pushed the door open. He didn’t close it behind him, leaving Yuugi the chance to take a peek. To his joy, Yami was awake and he turned his head to see who entered - and the surprised look on his face said all. To make matters worse, he dropped the book he’d been reading and he opened his arms wide... and Kaiba answered. To see the tall CEO immediately close the distance between them and lean into Yami, wrapping his arms around him, broke Yuugi’s heart. He quickly closed the door, soundlessly. It was over. It was all over. Yami wasn’t the one for him. Yami still loved Kaiba. Yuugi hurried back to the store and plastered his usual, brilliant smile on his face. His friends were amicably talking to Mokuba about games and Duel Monsters in particular. The two suit-clad men kept an eye on their surroundings, but also on the booster packs on sale.

“Yuugi owns the store,” Jounouchi said with pride in his voice, just as he re-entered the store.

“Really?” Mokuba said, impressed. “You have an awesome stock of Duel Monsters merchandise here!”

“It’s my favorite game,” Yuugi said, not correcting Jounouchi that the Game Shop was still owned by Sugoroku. His voice sounded normal, much to his relief. “That’s why I participated in the tournament.”

“For a first time, you got a pretty good result, Yuugi,” Mokuba smiled at him. “Not many people participate for a first time and immediately reach the top ten.”

“So the tournament is over, right?” Jounouchi asked.

Mokuba nodded. “Yes, nii-sama’s going to announce it officially later this afternoon. First place is for Yami, second place is Malik, third place is for my big brother!”

“Have you seen Malik-kun?” Yuugi asked, in an attempt to steer the attention away from himself.

The younger boy shook his head. “He has disappeared,” he said. “All of nii-sama’s men are looking for him. He’s not in his suite anymore, yet nobody saw him leave the hotel. He traveled to Japan by boat, and it’s no longer docked at the harbor. Maybe he couldn’t bear the loss of his God Card?”

“I’m not sure.” The entire Ishtar family was so mysterious. Ishizu had vanished like a thief in the night, taking her brother with her but leaving everyone else with a lot of questions. Yuugi didn’t know Malik’s condition but he hoped he was alright.

“It doesn’t matter though,” Mokuba continued. “He can pick up the prize money whenever he wants, KaibaCorp. will keep it safe for him.” He tapped on the silver briefcase. “If Yami’s up to it, I can hand it over to him right now.”

Honda pulled a sour face, just like Jounouchi. Anzu and Yuugi were better at hiding their disappointment. Yuugi was sure he would never come that close to such an amount of money again. One hundred thousand yen… and his grandfather needed the surgery so bad…

An hour passed by. Kaiba returned, calm and stoic, as if he hadn’t been cuddling his boyfriend at all. Ex, he’s his ex-boyfriend, went through Yuugi’s mind but he found it hard to believe after what he had witnessed.

“Nii-sama?” Mokuba looked up at his brother.

“I’ve seen for myself that Yami has the three God Cards,” Kaiba said, his face undisturbed. “I will declare him the official winner of the Battle City tournament later this afternoon.”

Mokuba tapped on the briefcase again. “What about this? Is there going to be an official celebration?”

“No.” Kaiba’s curt answer didn’t disturb Mokuba at all, he was probably used to it. “Leave it here. It’s his decision to do with it as he pleases.” It came out disdainfully, which made Mokuba draw up his eyebrows in surprise.

“What do you mean, nii-sama?”

Kaiba turned to Yuugi. “He wants you to have the prize money. Like I said, it’s his to do with as he pleases, even if that means giving it to an inferior duelist.”

“Kaiba!” Jounouchi balled his fists.

“Come, Mokuba, we have a lot of work to do.” Kaiba marched out of the store, followed by his younger brother and the two men in suits. When the door closed again, all eyes were drawn to the silver briefcase in the middle of the store. It was Jounouchi who spoke first.

“Do you think he was serious?”

“Who, Kaiba?” Honda shrugged. “It might be a cruel joke.”

“I don’t think Kaiba-kun would make cruel jokes,” Yuugi said. “Not like that.” He had seen the pain in the other’s eyes. Not about the money, Kaiba couldn’t care less about it. About Yami. Something had been said between them that had hurt him deeply, and Yuugi felt sorry. He didn’t like to see people in pain, even if they were as harsh as Kaiba. “I’ll take the briefcase upstairs and give it to Yami.”

“We’ll stay here,” Anzu said. “Take your time, Yuugi.”


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He lugged the heavy briefcase upstairs and hesitated in front of the guestroom door. What was he feeling? Confusion, conflict… what was he supposed to do? How could he face Yami, after witnessing such an intimate embrace from him and Kaiba? Had he been wrong, had he come on too strong? He straightened himself. This wasn’t about him, this was about Yami. He would focus on the other and deal with his broken heart later. After knocking politely, Yuugi opened the door. As before, Yami was in bed and turned his head towards him.

“Aibou,” he greeted him.

“Mou hitori no boku.” Yuugi couldn’t help the words flowing over his lips. He hauled the briefcase inside and held it in front of him as if he wanted to defend himself.

Yami frowned. “I do not want it,” he said.

“It’s yours,” Yuugi said. “You’re the winner of the Battle City tournament. Kaiba-kun’s going to make it official.”

“I know.” Yami shifted his hands a little, the movements slow. Yuugi placed the briefcase at the end of the bed. “I still do not want it.”

“You need money, mou hitori no boku,” Yuugi said. “You can’t live without it.”

“I have some left. My father set me up with a fund, just before he died. It is not much, but… I do not have many expenses.”

“With the prize money, you’ll be set financially for life,” Yuugi said. “You wouldn’t have to worry about anything. You won, you have a right to it. You told me yourself, ‘when I win this tournament, I can provide for myself and for them’.”

A silence fell. Yuugi wanted to bite off his tongue. How could he be so insensitive? He expected Yami to ask about Mahaado or Karim again, but he shook his head, all his movements slow, as if the tiniest exertion exhausted him. Yuugi noticed of course, and he put his hand on Yami’s cheek.

“I don’t like it that you’re so tired. You need plenty of rest, and I’ll make sure you’ll get it. Don’t worry about money for now, alright?”

Yami put his hand over Yuugi’s, the bandages chafing against his skin. “I want you to have it,” he said. “At least take as much as you need for your grandfather’s surgery. He is in more pain than I am.”

“Mou hitori no boku…”

“Take it,” Yami said. “Get him the surgery.”

“If you insist,” Yuugi answered, feeling strangely relieved yet saddened at the same time. He decided to leave Yami be for now. Everything else could wait. Kaiba, the rest of the money… he was tempted to put a kiss to the other’s forehead, but he restrained himself. Yami reclined into the pillows, his eyes half-lidded. He looked so vulnerable, yet Yuugi could see how he was rebuilding his walls around him. What had happened to him in the Shadow Realm? He was so unbalanced, so unhinged… it was hard to make anything out of it. Yuugi didn’t comment and adjusted his sheets before leaving the guest room.


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



“I said ‘no’! Please stop calling!” Yuugi severed the connection, exasperated by the nosy reporters. Annoyed, he shoved the phone over the counter, out of his reach. It would be of no avail. Soon enough, another reporter or some TV channel would call him again and he cursed Kaiba once more. The CEO had made the announcement that Yami was the official winner of the Battle City tournament, and that the crowning of King of Games had to be postponed due to a ‘minor accident’ in which Yami suffered ‘slight injuries’. The nature of the accident had nothing to do with KaibaCorp.’s virtual technology or Duel Disk system, and the winner was recuperating steadily and would appear in public again soon, to show the God Cards as proof of his victory.

Whatever moron in Kaiba’s press staff had decided to show a picture of the Game Shop, Yuugi was ready to kill him. Everyone and their mother had tied Yami to the Game Shop, hence reporters, journalists and TV crews all but besieging the store, calling and begging for interviews. If the questions weren’t about Yami, Yuugi himself was a highly interesting topic of interest, as he had reached such a high position for a first-time tournament participant, and could he make a prediction about his future in playing Duel Monsters? It drove him crazy and the reporters scared off customers. He was glad that the regulars and his friends weren’t bothered by it and stopped by his shop nonetheless. If it weren’t for them, he would’ve gone insane a long time ago.

“Jounouchi-kun, I’m so glad to see you!” Yuugi wasn’t only glad, he was relieved when his friend slipped into the store.

“It’s incredible,” Jounouchi said as he dusted off his jacket. “I had to fight my way through to get here!”

“I’m sorry, Jounouchi-kun…”

“Hey, it’s not like you can do something about those morons,” Jounouchi grumbled.

Yuugi took his jacket from him. “I hope they’ll lose interest soon enough.”

“The tournament has been over for a week now,” Jounouchi said. “Believe me, they’re not going anywhere. This is a story of a lifetime to them!”

“I’m glad you could come anyway. Where are the others?”

“Anzu has an assignment after school, for extra credits.” Jounouchi snorted. He didn’t want to spend one moment of time extra at school if he didn’t have to. “Honda has a family obligation, so it’s just me. So, how is our champion?”

“Doing better and better,” Yuugi answered, truthfully. Physically, Yami’s hands healed quite nicely. Just to be sure, Yuugi had called a doctor to inspect the cuts and the man had said that not much scarring would remain, despite the depth of the wounds. Yami’s strength seemed to be returning, as he didn’t sleep as long and often as he used to. He started walking around, first a few steps in the guestroom, then through the entire house. He modestly helped out with light household chores, like folding up laundry. Mentally, Yuugi wasn’t so sure. Yami didn’t speak much, reacting distant and cold, with a strange undertone to it. As if he was asking for help, but didn’t know how to - or didn’t want to admit to. Yuugi couldn’t find an opening to help him, not with his standoffish demeanor right now. “At the end of the week, the doctor wants to remove the bandages.”

“Yeah, his hands,” Jounouchi said. “You never heard a thing from the Ishtars, did you?”

“No, nothing.”

“They could’ve at least apologized or something like that.” Jounouchi tsk-ed. Hands were of course extremely important to a duelist, that’s why Malik had attacked him. “What about your grandfather?”

“He’ll be home at the end of the week.” Yuugi smiled. As per Yami’s wish, he had used a part of the prize money to pay for the elderly man’s surgery. Sugoroku was recovering at Domino City hospital and was doing so well that the doctors had discharge him in another couple of days. He would need special therapy to carefully build up his strength again, but in the very near future, he’d be up and running like normal, pain-free. The thought that Sugoroku would return to the Game Shop was exciting yet strange. Perhaps now Yuugi could go back to school and finish his education… he didn’t dare to think so far ahead. He would need so many extra classes to catch up!

“Great!” Jounouchi tilted his head. “You don’t look so happy, Yuugi. What’s going on?”

“I’m not sure,” Yuugi said. “I… just don’t feel that happy, I guess.”

“Is it because of Yami?” Jounouchi had been reluctant to acknowledge Yami as a friend and he’d was quick to declare him an enemy all over again, if need be.

“I’m not sure,” Yuugi repeated. “I just don’t know.”

“Come on Yuugi, you know you can tell me everything.”

“I know.” A deep sigh. “I appreciate it, Jounouchi-kun, but I’m not really sure what it is.” It wasn’t a lie. Yuugi really didn’t know what was bothering him. He had difficulties grasping Yami’s character, but could he blame him? At least he had his mother and grandfather, and Yami had no one. It pained Yuugi so much to see his walls restored again, so soon after he had seen his more vulnerable, approachable side.

“Maybe I can distract you a little,” Jounouchi said, grinning. “Why don’t we go over my Duel Monsters strategy?”

As always, even the mention of the game immediately improved Yuugi’s mood and he lit up like a Christmas tree. “Yes, sure!”

Jounouchi had developed his skills rapidly and impressively, and if there was ever going to be another tournament, Yuugi was going to push him to enter. He was just that good! They set up the board game version. Playing the game with the Duel Disk was more fun, but they’d have to go outside as the Game Store was too small to house the holographic projections of the monsters. Jounouchi took out his deck while Yuugi pulled out his and right from the start, they were completely engrossed in the game. Jounouchi had just taken off some of Yuugi’s life points and put another card in the trap zone, when the doorbell chimed. Customers took precedence so Jounouchi stepped aside for Yuugi to greet the new arrival.

“Irrashai, Kaiba-kun,” Yuugi said.

“Kaiba,” Jounouchi grunted. This time, the CEO wasn’t accompanied by his younger brother, just the usual two guys in impeccable suits.

“I have important business to discuss with Yami,” he said.

“You could use the front door, you know,” Jounouchi growled at him.

As usual, Kaiba ignored him. “Where is he?”

“Upstairs,” Yuugi said, feeling drained. He didn’t want to accompany Kaiba to his former… boyfriend.

Kaiba strode through the door that separated the Game Shop from the living quarters and when he was gone, Jounouchi shook his fist in his general direction. In the ensuing silence, Jounouchi looked from Yuugi to the door Kaiba went through, back to Yuugi and back to the door again.

“What is it, Jounouchi-kun?” Yuugi asked, not understanding his friend’s antics.

“I was wondering what was going on,” Jounouchi said. “But now I think I get it, somewhat.”

“Somewhat what?”

“You love him, don’t you? You love that jerk.”

“What? Kaiba? No!”

“No, no!” Jounouchi’s facial expression was comical and hysterical at the same time. “The other jerk, the ‘mild’ jerk. Your mou hitori no boku. It bugged me for days why you called him like that, but it’s all clear to me now.”

“Don’t be silly, Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi said, his voice lacking any conviction. If Jounouchi of all people figured it out, how obvious had it been? Anzu had made no comment about it, his mother neither…

Jounouchi shot him a glare. “You’re the silly one here. You fall head over heels in love with someone who doesn’t deserve you! I’m sorry to say, Yuugi, but he’s not the right guy for you.”

“You don’t care that I like guys in the first place?”

“I don’t care at all,” Jounouchi said. “It doesn’t matter to me, and I’m sure Honda and Anzu feel the same. As long as you’re happy, who cares if it’s with a man or a woman? We want you to be happy…and Yami… well…” He shrugged awkwardly. “He used to be Kaiba’s boyfriend. He searches out jerks. You’re way too good for him. Has he ever thanked you for how much you helped him?”

“Jounouchi-kun, you know he paid for jii-chan’s surgery,” Yuugi said, almost offended, even though his friends’ protectiveness endeared him. He wasn’t so sure about Anzu not having any problem with him falling for a guy, though. He’d need to talk to her in private about that. “It was a big chunk out of the prize money and you know I’d never been able to gather that much money on my own.”

“That was a great gesture, I commend him for doing that.” Jounouchi was willing to accept this as a good deed of Yami, but it didn’t convince him enough about his entire character. “Money is great and all, but he shouldn’t express his gratitude in cash, if you know what I mean.”

“I understand what you mean. But you know, Jounouchi-kun, that you should never do something only to expect something in return.” Yuugi had no need for Yami on his knees and kissing the floor in gratitude (though it was a funny mental image) but he loved to hear something personal from him, rather than receiving money. It made him think of their shared kisses… when Yami had been at his most vulnerable. It didn’t feel right, as if he had taken advantage of him. Yami had answered to those kisses, hadn’t he…? Or had he been thinking about Kaiba, his ex..?

“Yuugi, you’re zoning out on me.” Jounouchi waved his hand in front of Yuugi’s face. “Sorry man, I don’t mean to get you all uncomfortable.”

“No, it’s okay. It’s just a strange situation, that’s all. If only I knew what to say or what to do…”

Jounouchi was about to retort, when they heard disturbing noises coming from upstairs. A loud “No!” and “Get out!” followed by a “You don’t know what you’re doing!” and then, a crash and a thud. Yuugi and Jounouchi looked at each other and then bolted out of the store, taking the stairs two, three steps at the time. They stormed into the living room.

“Kaiba-kun!” Yuugi yelled.

“Kaiba! What did you do to him?” Jounouchi didn’t keep his voice down either. Kaiba looked over his shoulder, anger in his eyes.

“I didn’t do anything, he did this himself,” he protested, but his voice didn’t hold the same
anger as his eyes. Yuugi could hear the concern behind the words, even they sounded distant and stern. He hurried over to Yami, lying on the floor. A broken vase was in the corner of the living room, with bazillion small pieces scattered over the carpet. Yami panted as if he had ran a marathon, and the bandages on his left hand were colored slightly red.

“What happened?” Yuugi asked.

“We had an argument,” Kaiba said stiffly. He straightened himself. “It got out of hand and he threw a vase at me.”

“Then he probably had a good reason,” Jounouchi sneered at him.

“You know nothing,” Kaiba hissed. He turned to Yuugi again. “He overexerted himself, and for that, I offer you my apologies. I will reimburse the vase.” His eyes traveled to Yami. “I will hear back from you,” he said and strutted out of the living room.

“I can’t believe that guy!” Jounouchi threw his hands up in the air.

“Can you get up, mou hitori no boku?” Yuugi asked. Yami nodded and with a little effort and support from Yuugi, he stood up, albeit with shaky legs. Yuugi made him lie down on the sofa and fluffed up the cushions to make him comfortable. Jounouchi knew his way around the house and went to retrieve a broom and a dustpan to collect the vase’s shards. Yuugi made use of his absence to pull a heavy, warm afghan over Yami and slightly brush his cheek when tucking him in.

“Are you alright?”

“He wanted me… no, he asked me to appear on national TV to be crowned as King of Games,” Yami said, still panting.

“That’s what you get when winning the tournament,” Yuugi said mildly. “You have to do some promotional work and besides, the public would love to see the winner.”

“I do not mind that,” Yami said, though he didn’t seem too happy about it. “He wanted me to show the God Cards in front of a ceremonial tablet at the local museum.”

“What kind of ceremonial tablet?” Yuugi asked. He hadn’t been at the museum in ages.

“I know which one he is talking about,” Yami said. “My father… he showed me a picture of it when I was younger. I do not want to stand in front of it.”

“If it upsets you, you don’t have to do it,” Yuugi spoke to him, calmly and reassuringly. “How did Kaiba-kun come up with the idea?”

“That is the worst thing.” Yami shivered, despite the afghan. “He presented it as his idea, but it is actually Ishizu’s. He spoke to her a while ago, before Battle City started, and she suggested that it would be wonderful publicity if the winner of the tournament was to pose with the God Cards in front of the tablet. To make a circle complete, she said.”

“Ishizu-san spoke with Kaiba-kun?” Yuugi didn’t understand. “What’s that tablet about?”

“It depicts a game between a priest and a pharaoh,” Yami explained, still shivering. “The creator of Duel Monsters used it as inspiration to develop the game. I do not know why the tablet is here or why Ishizu suggested it in the first place…”

“A ceremonial tablet depicting a Pharaoh,” Yuugi repeated.

“Yes,” Yami said. “A nameless Pharaoh. His name has been removed from the tablet.”

They were both silent. Jounouchi diligently swept up the shards of the broken vase, catching the last bit of their conversation.

“Mou hitori no boku…” Yuugi pressed lightly against his shoulders and Yami obediently reclined into the cushions. “Rest now. We’ll be at the Game Shop. If you need something, just holler.”


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



“I don’t think Kaiba’s plan is that bad,” Jounouchi said. He had taken care of the mess and accompanied Yuugi back to the Game Shop.

“Kaiba-kun’s not to blame here,” Yuugi said. Jounouchi had caught more of their conversation than he thought, but he trusted his friend unconditionally. He seated himself behind the counter. No customer had visited during their absence. “I don’t think anyone is to blame. No one’s at fault. It’s just all so…”

“Weird,” Jounouchi finished his sentence. “All this talk about darkness, Ancient Egyptian magic, nameless Pharaohs, priests… it’s not normal. And Yami reacts to everything like being stung.”

“His past is strange to him,” Yuugi said. “His father died young. He grew up with two bodyguards instead of a family, he never had a normal life. His only personal possessions are the golden earrings and the picture of him and his father. And now these complications…”

“And Kaiba is his ex,” Jounouchi said. “I don’t want to rub it in, Yuugi, but it’s just weird, that’s all. I never thought Kaiba was capable of love anyway.”

Yuugi went silent. The memory of Yami opening his arms and Kaiba hurrying to answer that gesture, haunted his mind.

“Shall we continue?” Jounouchi pointed at the Duel Monsters board game, in the hope to distract Yuugi. He nodded and they got themselves wrapped up in their duel again. They had to interrupt their game a couple of times because of a customer coming in, and once because of an audacious reporter, looking for an interview with either Yuugi or Yami. Jounouchi made sure the guy left, even using a little force. An hour later, Mutou Sumiko entered the Game Shop.

“Are you going to close soon, Yuugi-kun?” she asked.

“Yes, kaa-san.” Yuugi didn’t expect any more customers at this hour, and certainly not with all those reporters standing in front of the store. “You’re going to stay for dinner, Jounouchi-kun?”

“Is that even a question?” Jounouchi grinned. He never said no to dinner with his friend, probably the only way to get some decent food inside his belly. They closed up shop and went upstairs.

“Oh, you’re up, mou hitori no boku,” Yuugi said when he saw Yami at the kitchen table. Jounouchi kept his face schooled in a neutral expression.

“How are you, Yami?” he asked.

“I am fine, thank you for asking,” Yami answered.

Jounouchi was about to say more, when Yuugi said: “About the vase, kaa-san…”

“I know, Yuugi-kun,” Sumiko said. “Yami-san told me all about it. I don’t really care, it was just a vase. Until he has regained all his strength, we can’t really blame Yami-san for losing his balance, now can we?”

Yuugi looked at Yami, who pointedly stared at the kitchen table. Well, it was better than “I threw a vase at my ex-boyfriend’s head”. Jounouchi was fortunately also as discreet as not to point out what really had happened.

“I still have prize money left,” Yami said, albeit softly. “I can buy a new vase.”

“Oh no, it’s okay, don’t worry.” Sumiko motioned for Yuugi and Jounouchi to sit down. “A vase isn’t worth that much trouble. Dinner’s ready. Let’s eat!”

Jounouchi looked at Yami from under his bangs, keeping an eye on him. Yuugi was silent, while his mother talked about her preparations to pick up Sugoroku as soon as he was discharged from the hospital.

“Do you think he’ll be working at the Game Shop soon?” Jounouchi asked. Sumiko put a large pan with oden on the table.

“He certainly plans to return to the store as soon as possible,” she said. “He has to go through therapy for a while, though.”

“So Yuugi can’t go back to school yet?”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen this year. We don’t want to rush him back into the store.”

“No, of course not,” Jounouchi said. “He needs to take it easy for a while and fully recuperate.”

Yuugi was listlessly poking in his food. He had hoped to return to school and be with his friends, but he had missed so many classes already… he was probably never going to catch up! He was so lost in thoughts that he didn’t hear Yami talking. He lifted up his head. “What..?”

“I can work at the store,” Yami said.

Jounouchi looked like he had just grown another head. “You don’t have any work experience!”

“I know everything about Duel Monsters there is,” Yami said, haughtily.

“The Game Shop sells more than just that,” Jounouchi reacted.

“Enough, please, Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi gently interrupted him. “He’s not going to work at the store.” He looked at Yami. “You’re in no condition to be at work, let alone full time,” he said, keeping his voice just as gentle. “Besides, you’re an international champion.”

“Yeah, you could live off of the rest of your prize money,” Jounouchi blurted out. Silence fell. Yuugi elbowed Jounouchi, who turned red.

“I do not know how,” Yami finally admitted. He stared into his bowl of oden.

“What?”

“I do not know how,” Yami repeated. “Without Mahaado and Karim… I do not know how.”

“Hey man, I’m sorry,” Jounouchi said, genuinely apologetic. “I didn’t mean it like that. Me and my big mouth..! We can help you, and teach you stuff.”

“Why don’t we just have something to eat,” Sumiko tried to save the situation. “We’ll talk about those things later, won’t we?”

“Excuse me,” Yami said and he got up. “I am not hungry.” They let him go, even though Sumiko and Jounouchi looked at Yuugi first, to gauge his reaction. Yuugi wasn’t very hungry himself and after a few modest bites, he excused himself as well. He went to the guestroom to find Yami, sitting on the bed.

“Mou hitori no boku,” he said.

“Aibou.”

Why did he call him like that? Just like he called him ‘other me’? Yami had started to do that ever since the duel in the Shadow Realm. Yuugi sat down next to him. “Are you alright?”

“I am not sure what to do,” Yami answered.

“Where did you live before you traveled from tournament to tournament?” Yuugi asked. “Did you have a steady place you called home? A place where you actually lived?”

Yami shook his head. “We went from hotel to hotel. I do not know any better than to play at tournaments and traveling, national and international. Mahaado and Karim took care of everything. I only had to participate, they arranged for everything else.”

“Why did you go to all those tournaments? To become the world champion?” It started to dawn to him. When Yami reached for his deck, he knew he was right. Without fail, Yami picked out the three God Cards and held them up.

“To get the God Cards,” Yami confirmed. “The ultimate prize. I have always liked playing games, and Duel Monsters gave me the distraction and comfort I needed, when my father passed away.”

“Mou hitori no boku, don’t you think that everything is coming together? You’ve been preparing your entire life to get the God Cards. You traveled all over the world to find them.”

“I…”

Yuugi put his hand over Yami’s. “Can’t you see? This has all been preparation. I don’t know for what exactly, but I think a lot will become clear when you’re in front of that ceremonial tablet. Ishizu-san has a very good reason to suggest the winner should go there. She’s a seer, remember? Something’s about to happen when you show those God Cards, and she’s steering you into the right direction.”

“I do not really trust her,” Yami mumbled.

“Then trust me,” Yuugi said. The other went silent for a bit, then nodded.

“Yes, I will trust you.”

Yuugi was relieved. “If you really want to work at the Game Store, mou hitori no boku, I’ll teach you how, but we’ll take it step by step. Despite what you think, you haven’t fully recovered and your body wouldn’t be up to fulltime work.”

“I understand, aibou,” he said. “Jounouchi was right.”

“He didn’t mean to put you down,” Yuugi said. “In a way, he wanted to protect you from overexerting yourself. He’s not as eloquent as you are.”

A small smile. “I am glad to see you have such good friends, aibou.”

“He’s your friend too, you know.” Yuugi reminded him gently, but he was saddened to see the distant look in Yami’s eyes. “I’m your friend too.”

“Of course you are.” Yami’s eyes turned a warmer shade of red, for which Yuugi was glad. At least the other was willing to accept him as a friend. “I will call Kaiba and tell him that I will accept his idea of showing the God Cards at the national museum.”

“Sounds good to me.” Yuugi forced himself to answer cheerfully, but his own words had actually scared him. Ishizu was indeed a seer. She probably didn’t have a good, but an ulterior reason to get the winner of the tournament in front of the ceremonial tablet. She had seen that Yami would be the winner, and now she wanted him to be at a specific place, with the God Cards, to be crowned King of Games. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea after all, but it was too late to turn back now. His hand was still on top of Yami’s, and he hadn’t withdrawn.

“There is just so much I do not know,” Yami said, heaving a sigh.

“I’ll help you,” Yuugi offered. “We can teach you, like Jounouchi-kun said.”

“You will leave me, sooner or later,” Yami shot at him. “Just like my father. Just like Mahaado and Karim. You will leave me!”

“No, that’s not true! Mou hitori no boku!”

“You have all left me! I have the Gods at my side, but nobody to stand by me!”

“Yami! Stop it!” Yuugi raised his voice and that seemed to have an effect on the other. “My family and friends took you in without hesitation. We’re all here for you, don’t forget about that.” He squeezed Yami’s hand, careful to not apply too much pressure, his fingers stroking the bandages. They would come off tomorrow; the doctor would take care of it. “I understand that you’re upset. You…”

“… my name,” Yami whispered, so softly that Yuugi had to strain himself to hear it.

“What?”

“I do not even know if ‘Yami’ is my name,” he repeated.

Yuugi was aghast. “Are you serious?”

“My parents were Egyptian, at least my father was. Why would he call his son ‘Yami’? That is how everyone calls me. Karim and Mahaado said “Master” or “Master Yami”, and I have never known any other name. Everything is so blurred. I have barely any memories of my youth.”

“Dark half and light half,” Yuugi said.

“Stop with that Pharaoh nonsense,” Yami retorted, curtly. “That is too far-fetched. I told you that I wanted to travel to Egypt to search for my roots. Well, as soon as my hands are healed, I am leaving.”

“So you are leaving me,” Yuugi said. It brought a flash of red on Yami’s cheeks.

“I…”

“I understand, mou hitori no boku. You’re angry and afraid, just like you were in the Shadow Realm. I can’t take all your fears away, but I’ll try. Just remember that I’m here for you and that I want to help you. Get some rest. Tomorrow is early enough to call Kaiba-kun.”

“Tomorrow.” Yami stared at him, and Yuugi met his gaze head-on. His striking eyes with the reddish hue… it was hard to read them, but Yuugi liked to think he could see at least a little trust and faith in them. He didn’t think however, that this was the right moment to try to kiss him, even though they were sitting very close next to each other, and holding hands. Yuugi decided against it. Yami’s emotions were so raw from losing Mahaado and Karim, he was on edge because his life had taken such a different turn and he had so many changes to adjust himself to… telling him that he loved him, would only add extra pressure to the emotional turmoil. Yuugi lowered his head. Loved him? Had he truly fallen head over heels in love with Yami? He already knew the answer, of course.

In his room, the letter that Ishizu had given him was tucked away in the drawer of his desk. Very gently, the hieroglyphs lit up with a golden glow.


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





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