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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




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



Yuugi’s mother sighed and groaned in annoyance. The construction workers made a lot of noise, and dust and debris were all over the place! Ever since Sugoroku accepted Yuugi’s and Atemu’s proposition of turning the Game Shop into his living quarters, adjusted to his needs, the renovation of the building was in full swing. The elderly man had, after some prying and prodding, admitted that he hadn’t fancied the assisted living facility at all, he rather wanted to stay with his family... but just like Yuugi’s mother, he’d been convinced this decision was in the best of Yuugi’s interests. Yuugi was a bit saddened that they had reached this conclusion without consulting him; his best interest was to keep the family together, not to tear it apart! If a renovation was the solution to the problem, then there would be a renovation, no ifs or buts about it. He had called a contractor the next morning to get the ball rolling.

Much work had to be done. Before they could start the actual renovation, they had to design jii-chan’s new living quarters, implementing his wishes and the adjustments to his increasing age and health problems. Yuugi sold the majority of the Game Shop’s inventory at reduced prices and donated the rest of the toys and board games to charity. The entire store had to be stripped of its furniture: the display cases, shelves and large counter. Yuugi found a local arts and crafts shop whose owners could use the furniture; they had just started out and were delighted with the tall display cases to showcase their work. The outdated cash register went into the trash bin; it was the only object that couldn’t be salvaged. As Yuugi was busy wrapping up his business affairs, Kaiba got wind of him quitting the Game Shop and relentlessly increased his hours, demanding a full work week for his R & D team. Yuugi was happy to concentrate on just one job, he loved his work, but dealing with his situation at home and tying up the last ends of the Game Shop took also a lot of time.

Of course Atemu took it upon himself to be in charge of the renovation, keeping a strict oversight and instructing the workers daily. He inspected what was done and conferred with the contractor when something wasn’t to his liking. Aside from the renovation, Atemu got a bulk of work from Ishizu, who had left for her first international trip. No new replacement had been found for her yet, so a lot of work ended up on his plate. Needless to say, he was very busy. To top it off, they both had a lot of social contact and obligations. It was a very hectic, busy life and Yuugi enjoyed every moment of it, grateful to have Atemu at his side and his family so close to him. With that said, all work and no play would burn out anyone, so Yuugi made sure to free up time in his schedule for himself, and certainly for his best friend, Jounouchi. He had become an uncle, as his sister Shizuka had given birth to a healthy baby boy.

“These are lovely pictures, Jounouchi-kun,” Yuugi admitted as he watched the slideshow on Jounouchi’s cell phone. They were having lunch together at a restaurant not far from KaibaCorp., ideal to catch up. “Shizuka-chan makes such a good mom!”

“She was born to be a mother, yes,” Jounouchi said with obvious pride in his voice. “The baby couldn’t be in better hands!”

“And with such an awesome uncle, he’ll grow up to be just as awesome,” Yuugi teased him.

“Well, duh - his father is a boring pencil pusher, the boy needs a cool uncle to teach him everything about cars and rock music and girls!”

Yuugi grinned. “See how you’re already adapting to your new role? Not long ago, you complained that you weren’t ready to become an uncle, and now you’re totally ready for it!”

“It’s because babies are cute,” Jounouchi said. “Well, they drool and poop a lot, but I don’t have to worry about that. I can take him cart racing or laser gaming, teach him the fun things in life… Shizuka can worry about his homework results or whether he’s in bed on time.”

“I certainly hope you’ll also think of responsibilities once you become a father yourself,” Yuugi said sternly and took another bite of his delicious beef teriyaki bowl.

Jounouchi shrugged awkwardly. “I’m not sure if I want to be one. I think I’ll practice baby-sitting my nephew first. What about you?”

“What do you mean? Becoming a father?”

“Yeah! You could always adopt, if you want to?”

“Hmmm…” Yuugi chewed on a thin slice of beef. “You know, we’ve never really talked about it. I don’t think Atemu-kun is interested in becoming a father and I’ve never had the urge or desire either. So it’s probably a moot point.”

“I think you’d make an excellent one,” Jounouchi said. He ate much faster than Yuugi and his empty bowl sat in front of him. “Teaching your kid everything about games and stuff… so, how have you two been as of late?”

“Very, very busy,” Yuugi sighed.

“Yeah, with the renovation and you closing up store…”

“It’s so easy to slip up and fall back into the old patterns,” Yuugi said. “Work, work, work all the time and he rarely plans any time for himself. I’ve sort of accepted that I’m the one who needs to step on the brakes, because Atemu-kun simply doesn’t see it. I think he refuses, on a subconscious level, to lower all of his walls… the last one is so dense and thick, I don’t think I can ever tear it down.”

“Perhaps you don’t need to,” Jounouchi said, sipping his matcha tea. “Why would you, honestly? You pour so much energy in him, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but what’s the purpose? He loves you a lot, but he has his flaws and quirks, just like anyone else.”

Yuugi was amused. “I never thought I’d live through the day when you’d stand up for my boyfriend.” Even though Jounouchi and Atemu were friends, they didn’t share the same ‘best friends’ bond like Jounouchi and Yuugi. Due to Atemu’s more distant character, they had even started off on the wrong foot and it had taken them some time to develop a friendship.

“I’m just saying that not all walls need to come down,” Jounouchi said philosophically. “I know he’s a good person, Yuugi. It’s very obvious that he loves you, and he treats you with much reverence and respect. He takes his family responsibilities much more serious than I do. You’d like to have your relationship completely and utterly equal, but I don’t think that’s ever possible. Between anyone, I mean. Everyone has his or her own traits, habits, flaws… that make a person unique. That’s who they are. That’s what makes us love them.”

“Are you telling me that I’m trying to change Atemu-kun into someone he doesn’t want to be?” Yuugi asked, abhorred at the thought.

Jounouchi shook his head. “No, not at all! Don’t get me wrong, Yuugi. You want to get through to his core, to his very soul. You love him very much, that’s clear to everyone. What I’m telling you… and who am I to give you relationship advice… is to perhaps take a little step back. You know him. You love him. Getting absorbed in his work is who Atemu-kun is, so you have to grab him by the scruff and drag him out of the office. So be it. That’s who he is.”

“I see what you mean,” Yuugi said pensively, tapping with his chopsticks on the edge of his bowl as he sunk into thought. Could it be that he tried to change Atemu-kun into a copy of himself? Was it so hard to accept the other’s flaws? He wasn’t perfect either, but Atemu never pointed out something that irritated him, and whenever Yuugi brought up something negative, Atemu would always disagree. “I’m pushing too hard,” he said. “I thought that Atemu-kun had a habit of falling back into old patterns, but so do I. How could I be so selfish?”

“Now now, don’t be so hard on yourself,” Jounouchi hurried to say. “And don’t forget, every relationship has its ups and downs.”

“It takes a true friend to be this honest,” Yuugi said. “Thank you, Jounouchi-kun.”

“No problem. And if I can take my own advice, perhaps one day I’ll be in a relationship as well.”

“You haven’t heard from Michiru-chan?”

“Nah. I think it was pretty obvious to the both of us that it didn’t work out.”

“I’m sorry to hear that, Jounouchi-kun.”

Jounouchi wiggled before reclining into his seat. “There’s no need. I liked her, but it was clear from the start that it wasn’t something long-term.” He grinned wolfishly. “We had a couple of fun nights in the bedroom, though.” He noticed the annoyed look on Yuugi’s face. “What? You don’t have a problem with casual sex, do you?” He lowered his voice at the end of his sentence, but he didn’t have to; the restaurant was fairly crowded and his voice was drowned out by the rest of the customers.

“No, of course not,” he answered. “It’s just that… well, I’d love to be intimate as well. We do a lot of kissing and hugging, but… nothing much more…” The last time they had come close to being intimate, the curator had had a minor meltdown, not because he was afraid of the intimacy in itself, but because of prior accumulated stress, the build-up tension about his new-found family breaking up… Yuugi had spend the night comforting Atemu, grateful that his boyfriend opened up to him and spoke about his emotions, but truth to be told, he longed for the other, for physical intimacy, to go beyond the mere handholding and cuddles.

“Maybe he just doesn’t know how..?” Jounouchi scratched the back of his head. “I didn’t think that anyone of his age could still be a virgin.” He didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

“Relationships and physical intimacy haven’t been up high on his priority list for a long time,” Yuugi said. “He had no one to help him grieve, Jounouchi-kun. He just buried himself in his work.”

“I understand,” Jounouchi said. “The things people will do to not face their pain… don’t worry Yuugi, I won’t think any less of him.” Though he made a funny face, Jounouchi wasn’t a liar and he certainly wouldn’t think that there was something wrong with Atemu.

“I just don’t know what to do,” Yuugi mused. “I want to talk to him about it, but I don’t want to overwhelm him, you know?”

“Hey, don’t look at me,” Jounouchi held up his hands. “I can send Shizuka over, she knows the secrets of a good marriage. Maybe she can give you some tips?”

Yuugi almost choked on his tea. “Jounouchi-kun!”


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



Days went by. They celebrated Christmas and New Year’s. The renovation was almost done; the work took so long because a bathroom had to be installed and all the plumbing needed to be installed and adjusted. The end was near though, much to the relief of Yuugi’s mother; the noise and the dust drove her crazy. Yuugi was also glad to see the construction workers go; just a couple of days more and the renovation would be finished. Between his work for KaibaCorp.’s R & D team and the last administrative details on closing the Game Shop, he’d been giving his latest conversation with Jounouchi a long thought.

He didn’t want to impose on Atemu, but physical intimacy was an important part of a relationship to him, and he wanted to know Atemu’s opinion and where he was standing. After their previous experience in bed, it had remained quiet. Yuugi figured that the curator might be embarrassed and it had never been his intention to make him feel that way. It was fairly obvious that sex in general wasn’t a topic Atemu liked to talk about. Jounouchi might be right; maybe he simply didn’t know how..? He had build his walls so meticulously and aside from a short-lived crush on a history professor in Cairo, Atemu truly had never invested time or effort in finding a partner, or having sex. Yuugi came up with an idea.

This Saturday afternoon, his mother and grandfather would go furniture shopping and without any other obligations on the agenda, he could schedule quality time with Atemu. As it was a delicate subject, Yuugi didn’t want to spring it on Atemu and so on Thursday night, he unfolded his plan when it was time for bed. As usual, he nuzzled the curator, basking in his love and attention. Jounouchi had been right about that and Yuugi had never contested it: Atemu loved him very much, no doubt about it. Yuugi brought up his hand to pet his hair, a movement they mutually liked.

“Habibi,” Atemu said, sounding tired yet content, “we have been very busy as of late.”

“I’m happy that you mention it,” Yuugi said. “I wanted to talk to you about it.”

“I am so sorry. The renovation demands a lot of my time and attention still. We have not found a suitable replacement for Ishizu yet and Malik stopped giving guided tours at the museum, as he is studying for his admission exams. We are so short-staffed, it is not funny anymore.”

“I’m very well aware of all that, my love, but we can’t go on like this,” Yuugi said, sternly. “I don’t want to lose sight of you. I don’t want to greet a stranger in my home. You’re my partner. My boyfriend. My lover.”

Atemu blushed slightly in the moonlight. He looked adorable with the reddish color to his cheeks and with his eyes half-lidded, so coy and demure… only Atemu could look incredibly sexy in pajamas. Yuugi kissed him on the tip of his nose.

“I have a proposition for you,” he said.

“Name it,” Atemu said.

“This Saturday, kaa-san and jii-chan will go furniture shopping. We have all afternoon to ourselves.”

Atemu smiled. “That sounds wonderful.”

“I want to turn it into a very special afternoon,” Yuugi said and gauged the other’s reaction carefully. Atemu caught on quickly and nodded, though he looked a bit anxious. To prevent him from getting all worked up, Yuugi stressed: “We’re not going to do anything you don’t want to do. Besides, I was thinking about something else. A cleansing ritual. To leave all your grief and sorrow behind. What do you think?”

“A cleansing ritual?” Atemu asked. “Like... taking a shower or something?”

“No, not like that.” Yuugi chuckled. “See it as a symbolic ritual to let go of everything negative in your life, of everything that has been weighing you down.”

“I… I would like to let go of that,” Atemu admitted.

“Nobody is telling you to forget your father and no one is belittling your emotions,” Yuugi said, gently caressing his hair. “But it’s time to leave the sadness behind and focus on what’s there in your life: the good things, the people who care about you.”

“I see what you mean.” He didn’t hesitate. “Alright. Let me know what I need to do.”

“Thank you for your faith and trust,” Yuugi said. He kissed him once again on the tip of his nose. Atemu tilted his head a little and Yuugi complied, kissing him lower. The curator raked his hand through Yuugi’s hair and he shivered just a little. He could only imagine the joy and pleasure it would bring him if they took it a step further… but he wasn’t focused on his own pleasure and he hoped he could teach Atemu, to show him how wonderful it could be… for tonight though, they cuddled and kissed before falling asleep, both tired from another exhausting day.


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



That Saturday afternoon, Yuugi saw his mother and grandfather off to the shopping mall, relieved that they didn’t ask him to come along; not because of what he had in mind, but because furniture shopping was extremely boring and tedious, especially with his mother who wanted to inspect every little detail of every chair or bed she came across. He wished Sugoroku good luck; the elderly man wasn’t looking forward to all the shopping, but he had very little choice. The renovation was almost finished, and he needed furniture. Now that they were alone in the house, Yuugi walked upstairs to the living room. Atemu looked up from his laptop, with a bit of apprehension visible in his eyes. Yuugi kissed him on the cheek.

“Alright, this is what I want you to do,” he said. “Take a nice, hot shower and get into comfy clothes; a pair of pajamas would work best, I guess.”

“Very well,” Atemu said and left to do as he was told. As soon as he heard the water running, Yuugi set up the mood in the bedroom. He turned up the heat to make the temperature warm and cozy, and he lit a lot of candles as well as a stick of lavender incense, a relaxing and calming scent for the body and mind. In the center of the room, he put down soft cushions, a bowl, a few pieces of paper and a pencil. He returned to the kitchen to prepare tea; a special blend with lemongrass and chamomile to alleviate stress and anxiety. Yuugi brought the tea and cups on a tray into the room and smiled at Atemu, sitting on one of the cushions with his legs crossed.

“You look relaxed already,” Yuugi winked at him.

“It was a very nice shower,” Atemu said. He was wearing a pair of dark blue sweat pants and a baggy shirt, loose yet comfortable. He tracked Yuugi’s movements through the room as he set down the tray and made sure that the tea light would keep the teapot hot.

“I’ll take a shower too,” he said. “The tea needs to steep for at least ten minutes anyway. If you want to read something while you’re waiting, that’s fine by me.”

“I will wait for you,” Atemu said, his voice flat and even. He was nervous as he didn’t fully comprehend what Yuugi was aiming for. He was used to artifacts and paperwork and his vast knowledge of history, things he could discuss or debate, and at least understand… but this wasn’t work, this was personal and he realized it was important. Yuugi could see that he did his best, and if only for that, it made him love him even more. He didn’t waste time and jumped in the shower to clean himself from top to bottom. Yuugi toweled his body dry and slipped into a pair of pajamas. He joined Atemu in the bedroom and checked up on the tea: still hot. Carefully, he poured two cups and handed one to Atemu, who gracefully accepted. Yuugi sat down opposite of him and crossed his legs. He brought the cup to his lips and sipped.

“Delicious,” he said. Atemu had waited for him to drink first and mimicked his movement, bringing the cup to his lips but before he tasted the liquid, he inhaled its scent.

“Chamomile,” Atemu concluded correctly.

“With a touch of lemongrass,” Yuugi added. “How do you like it?”

“I have to say, I really enjoy this kind of tea.” Atemu took a careful sip, as the liquid was still scorching hot. “In Egypt, tea is often flavored with fresh mint leaves or milk. It is a lot heavier than the matcha green teas in this country. It took me a while to get adjusted to the strong difference in taste.”

“I’m glad you like it.” Yuugi sipped again. It was perhaps a bit strange to sit in your pajamas on a comfy cushion and drink tea on a Saturday afternoon, but he had a clear purpose with all of this, and he was sitting right across of him. “Thank you for joining me, my love. It’s time to let go of the things that burden you. You have never given yourself room to grieve; you have never allowed yourself to move on without feeling pain or remorse. Are you ready to let it go?”

“Yes, I am ready,” Atemu breathed. He put his cup down. “I want to leave it behind me.”

“Pick up the pencil,” Yuugi encouraged him, “and a piece of paper.”

Atemu did as he was told. He had removed his rings before taking the shower, and he hadn’t put them back on. Yuugi had rarely seen him without his jewelry and was mesmerized by the elegant movements of his long, slender fingers; naked and vulnerable. Keeping his voice low and gentle,
Yuugi gave him his next assignment: “Write down the things you want to let go of.”

Atemu didn’t hesitate. He wrote the Japanese kanji for ‘sorrow’ on the piece of paper, along with the corresponding Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph.

“Put the piece of paper in the bowl,” Yuugi said. “Continue to write. Take as much time as you need.”

He watched while Atemu wrote down more. “Grief”, “unhappiness”, “anger” even, but he also slipped a piece of paper with “father” and “mother” into the bowl. Yuugi understood that Atemu didn’t want to let go of his parents, but of the grief and sorrow surrounding their early deaths. Especially his father had a great influence on his life, always being there in the background, hovering over his shoulder. After a while, Atemu put the last piece of paper into the bowl, his fingers slightly trembling. “Puzzle”, Yuugi read. The magnificent artifact that had been in Atemu’s family and which had kept him connected to his father, all these years; until Yuugi had managed to solve it. The Puzzle, an upside-down golden pyramid, was on permanent display at the National Museum, but Atemu had always longed to have it to himself, as it reminded him of his father and their bond.

Yuugi didn’t rush into the next part as soon as Atemu put down his pencil. “Ready?” he asked, just to be sure, after waiting for another while. Atemu nodded. “Alright. Take my hand, please.”

Atemu took his hand and Yuugi brought up a match and the matchbook. He fidgeted a little awkwardly, holding hands and lighting a match at the same time. It took him a couple of tries but the match lit up and Yuugi lowered their entwined hands to drop it into the bowl. The pieces of paper immediately caught fire, crumpling up from the heat. The smoke curled up in the air.

“There it goes,” Yuugi said, still holding Atemu’s hand. “Look at it, my love. See? There it goes, taking all your grief and sorrow with it. All your sadness and anger. Let it go. See how it flies away from you, how it leaves you.”

Atemu stared intensely after the dissipating smoke, not letting go of Yuugi’s hand. He used the moment to take the curator’s other hand in his.

“Close your eyes,” Yuugi said. “Inhale. Exhale.” He repeated the last words for as long as it took for the paper to completely incinerate and the smoke to vanish. “It’s gone.”

“Gone,” Atemu repeated, still with his eyes closed.

“You can open your eyes again, if you want to,” Yuugi said. “How do you feel? It’s okay if you want to cry, or laugh, or scream… anything you want.”

He didn’t answer straight away. “Relieved,” he finally said. “I thought I was going to cry when I was writing everything down. It came back to me so strong.”

“Do you want to play your cello? I can get it for you...”

“No, I am fine.” Atemu sounded surprised. “I feel fine. Like a weight has been lifted off of me. Even though it was just a symbolic ritual, it feels like… yes, that it has cleared and cleansed my mind.”

“I’m happy to hear that,” Yuugi said and he pressed a kiss to Atemu’s hands. “Is there anything you’d like to do?”

Atemu hesitated. “If you do not mind… I would like to lie down for a moment.”

“Of course. No problem.”

They got up from the floor and Yuugi guided Atemu towards the bed. Just as the other was about to sit down, Yuugi wanted to withdraw his hand, but he found he couldn’t - Atemu was holding on to him.

“Please join me, habibi?”

“Of course.” Yuugi didn’t need to think twice and he climbed in bed, settling into Atemu’s arms.

The curator fell asleep quite quickly, perhaps fatigued by the onslaught of emotions and processing them. Yuugi wasn’t very sleepy and he had to keep an eye on the still burning candles. The temperature in the room was quite warm and the lavender incense had quite a powerful scent. He stared at the ceiling. Had he succeeded in making Atemu feel better? He had come up with the ‘ritual’ himself, symbolic indeed, if only to teach Atemu to let go of everything that was dragging him down. Letting go of the issues weighing on him would diminish his need to build and keep those walls around him, freeing him of those heavy, complicated layers on his heart and soul. An hour passed and Yuugi was contemplating whether he should get up and leave Atemu to rest or what he should make for dinner as the latter stirred next to him and opened his eyes.

“Hey there,” Yuugi said.

“Hello,” Atemu answered, a little blearily. “What time is it?”

Yuugi craned his neck to look at the alarm clock. “Around six,” he said. “Are you feeling hungry? I can whip up something for dinner.”

“Kaa-san and jii-chan are not at home yet?” He yawned.

It always pleased Yuugi to hear Atemu refer to his family as ‘his’ mother and grandfather as well. He nuzzled him. “No, after the shopping they would go to Yunosuke’s.” It was a restaurant favored by the Mutous, for their good quality food at reasonable prices.

“Let us follow their example,” Atemu suggested.

“You want to eat at Yunosuke’s too?”

“I was thinking more of Hem-bai.”

“That... doesn’t sound very Japanese. I never heard of it?”

“It is a restaurant specializing in Egyptian cuisine,” Atemu elaborated. “The last time I spoke to Malik, he mentioned it to me. Apparently, he goes there quite often to eat koshari for lunch and he was raving about the taste.”

Yuugi never had Egyptian cuisine before. “We… eh, I can give it a try,” he said. “It’s nothing but fair, as you eat Japanese all the time and we never have Egyptian food for dinner. Alright, let’s get dressed. Maybe you can make a reservation?”

“I will.” Atemu waited for Yuugi to leave the bed first. Yuugi stretched and went in search for something comfortable, yet classy to wear. He couldn’t visit the restaurant in his pajamas and ever since he worked for KaibaCorp., he had filled his wardrobe with business suits, even splurging on one Dolce & Gabbana’s, though he kept it for special occasions only. He picked out one and got dressed; chatting with Atemu until it was time to leave.


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



Hem-bai was a small, family-owned cozy restaurant that made Yuugi immediately feel at home. The decoration was colorful with obvious hints of Middle-Eastern influences, yet modest and arranged in such a way that everyone would feel welcome.

“Would you do the honors?” Yuugi asked, handing Atemu the menu as he had no idea what to order. All the dishes sounded so foreign and extremely spicy to him.

“We will start off with molokhiya,” Atemu told the waiter, and to Yuugi: “I am sure you will like this. It is a national dish, served with lots of garlic.”

Yuugi trusted his opinion, but was that a slightly wicked grin on Atemu’s lips? The waiter brought out the soup fairly quickly and Yuugi could already smell the garlic, along with the coriander. Oh, who cared - it wasn’t like he wasn’t going to kiss anyone else anyway.

“Tasty,” he said after the first spoonful. His cellphone went off and he answered, keeping the conversation brief; it was his mother, telling him that she and Sugoroku had arrived home safely. Yuugi told her that he was at the restaurant with Atemu, and that he would see her later this evening. He put his cellphone away again and was amused at Atemu finishing his soup before he did. “I can see you really enjoy it,” he said. “Should I invest in Egyptian cuisine cooking classes?”

“I am a true horror with the stove,” Atemu admitted wholeheartedly. He never had learned how to cook; by bits and pieces, Yuugi had learned that the curator had lived quite a wealthy lifestyle in Cairo; his father held a fairly high position and so the household had been run by hired personnel: a chef, a maid and a personnel assistant. After his father’s passing, Atemu had relied on the same personnel until he left for Japan, where he lived with his host family, no one else but Kaiba Seto himself, who also had an extended staff to take care of his every need. Yuugi couldn’t imagine Atemu in the kitchen; whereas he helped with simple household chores like vacuuming, folding laundry and general tidying, handling pots and pans was just out of the curator’s league. He reached over the table and patted Atemu’s hand.

“Don’t worry, I won’t demand you to cook,” he said reassuringly. “I only demand of you to be there for me when I need you.”

“Always,” Atemu said in all earnest. He didn’t pull his hand away when the waiter arrived to clear away their dishes, which pleased Yuugi. Atemu was very stingy when it came to public display of affection, and now they were holding hands, out in the open!

“We will continue with samak mashwi, please,” Atemu said, and to Yuugi: “Grilled fish. A real specialty.”

“Oh, yum! I really like fish!”


The evening progressed nicely, with scrumptious food with lots of spices; dessert was the equally spicy, yet typical sweet basbousa made of semolina and soaked in sugar syrup. Atemu had ordered a slice of baklava for Yuugi who couldn’t eat it all; it was delicious, but quite heavy on the stomach.

“I’m full,” Yuugi said, dabbing at his lips with a napkin. “It was so good!”

“I am very glad you liked it.” Atemu withdrew his hand, not because he didn’t want to hold hands no longer, but to grab his wallet in order to pay. “My treat.”

“Thank you, love.” He shifted in his seat while Atemu went to the cashier to take care of the bill. He returned with both their jackets; it was early in the year and still quite cold outside. Yuugi shrugged into his jacket and when no one was looking, he quickly pecked Atemu on the cheek. “Let’s go home, shall we?”

“I will call for a taxi,” Atemu said. Yuugi nodded; it was quite late and he wasn’t looking forward to take the subway home again. Maybe he should take driving lessons; after all, they could easily afford a car. If only traffic wasn’t so extremely crowded in Domino City…

After arriving home, Sugoroku and Yuugi’s mother had already gone to bed. Yuugi and Atemu made their way upstairs quietly and prepared for bed. As always, Atemu draped his arm over Yuugi’s chest as he spooned behind him, but this time he pulled him even closer.

“This was such a wonderful evening, habibi,” he said.

“It certainly was.” Yuugi had been smiling the entire time. “The cleansing ritual certainly was good for you.”

Atemu made a non-committal sound but Yuugi knew he agreed; he could hear it in his voice. Content, he had no difficulties falling asleep, dreaming of more Egyptian food; this time, it was Atemu who served him, clad in only a loin cloth… it certainly was one of the best dreams he ever had.


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



He still had the wonderful weekend on his mind when he arrived at KaibaCorp.. Monday morning was reserved for R & D team meetings, in which current projects were discussed and the workload divided between the coworkers. Yuugi entered his department and was met with an awful silence. Every one of his colleagues sat hunched over in their cubicle, and those who walked around, looked defeated and depressed.

“What’s going on?” Yuugi asked, freaking out at the horrible atmosphere. “What happened?”

“Kaiba-sama discovered a miscalculation in an important algorithm,” one of his superiors whispered to him. “You just missed him by a second. He was screaming his head off, because production has already started up and now there’s a big possibility the Duel Disk 2.0 will malfunction when starting up a duel.”

“That’s awful,” Yuugi said. He and four others had worked continuously on several algorithms to make the holographic technology work, rendering the images of the Duel Monsters cards to perfection. He got a weird feeling in his stomach. It couldn’t be… that it was his fault? No wonder everyone was so down - they were all bleeding because of his incompetence! Panicked, Yuugi ran towards his cubicle and started up his computer. He hated to disappoint Kaiba. The CEO worked harder than anyone else and even though he had the reputation of being ruthless, Yuugi thought he was strict, but fair. He couldn’t afford to lose his job… but if he had made that mistake, wouldn’t he have been fired by now? Yuugi peeked over the edge of his cubicle and whistled at his colleague.

“What did Kaiba-kun say?” he wanted to know.

“That no one was allowed to go home until that algorithm is sorted out,” the man said, already sounding exhausted before the workday had started. “When he finds out who’s responsible for the error, heads are going to roll.”

“Oh dear.” Yuugi sat down. What was he supposed to do? What if he had made that error? A thousand thoughts went through his mind. As long as Atemu held his job at the National Museum, they could get by on his salary. He no longer had the Game Shop as a back-up income. Yuugi inhaled sharply. Calm, calm, stay calm. Nobody had pointed any fingers at him. Nobody had blamed him or accused him of anything. He first had to figure out, just like the others, where and how the mistake had been made. Yuugi was so engrossed with all the coding that soon his head started to spin and his eyes started to tear from staring so intensely at the computer screen. He even forgot about lunch, as did the rest of his colleagues. At the end of the day the error had been found, but it turned out that it couldn’t be fixed so easily. More so, it was unclear how the error had been made or by whom - and the entire department eyed each other suspiciously, as no one wanted to take the blame. The last word hadn’t been said about it when everyone went home. Yuugi had such a daunting headache that he almost took the wrong subway.


“Yuugi, you look like you’ve been run over by a bus,” his grandfather said, almost shocked when he saw him at dinner. Atemu would be late due to attending a banquet in honor of international guests visiting the National Museum, and Yuugi wanted nothing but to lay down in his boyfriend’s arms and be held and kissed.

“I’m sorry, jii-chan,” Yuugi apologized. “It was a really bad day at work.” He explained the issue to the elderly man, just as his mother swooped into the kitchen. She caught the last of his words and misinterpreted them, thinking that Yuugi already had been fired. “No, kaa-san,” he tried to reassure her, “but I’m sure Kaiba-kun’s going to fire the one responsible for the mistake.”

“I think he’s more focused on getting the mistake fixed and recalling the Duel Disks,” Sugoroku said. “From what I’ve heard, those rumors about him firing people on a whim are grossly exaggerated. A mistake is human…”

“Kaiba-kun demands nearly the impossible from us,” Yuugi said. “He’s not going to go easy on either one of us as soon as he finds out who’s to blame… and if he can’t find someone to blame, it’s going to be on the head of the entire team.”

“Let’s not jump to conclusions too fast.” Yuugi’s mother tried to keep a positive outlook. She had, while Yuugi and Sugoroku were talking, finished dinner preparations and served both men a full plate of omurice. The dish was one of Yuugi’s favorites, but the delicate taste of the fluffy egg and the perfectly cooked rice mixed with diced vegetables eluded him and he couldn’t finish his meal. His mother and grandfather looked worrisome when he announced that he was full, and that he was going to soak in the tub to relax.


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



Not even the hot water could help him to unwind. Yuugi had closed his eyes, opened his eyes, tried to think happy thoughts, attempted to not think about work at all… he heaved a loud sigh. He wasn’t looking forward to tomorrow… the door to the bathroom opened.

“Just a minute,” Yuugi said, not looking up. “I’m nearly done!”

The hand stroking his hair wasn’t his mother’s, or his grandfather’s. Yuugi immediately twisted his neck and smiled when he saw Atemu.

“You’re home! What time is it?”

“Not as late as you might think,” Atemu said. “Just as well, because it was boring.”

Yuugi had to refrain from snickering. If Atemu thought something was boring, then it had to be extremely, deadly boring. Yuugi had no patience at all to sit through hours of diplomatic banquets, dinners, kabuki shows or operas, whereas Atemu wouldn’t bat an eye and even enjoyed the evening. He tilted his head a little and pursed his lips. Atemu complied and kissed him.

“I heard about the trouble at KaibaCorp., habibi.” He paused to put a towel on the floor, next to the tub, and knelt on it so he was at the same level as Yuugi. “You and the team have gone through rough times before. What is bothering you?”

“I’m afraid,” Yuugi said and he hadn’t voiced it out loud before, “that I’m the one responsible for the mistake.”

“You? Why?”

“My team worked on that particular algorithm a couple of weeks ago, when I was so busy finalizing the business administration of the Game Shop,” Yuugi said, his voice low. “I’m afraid that I made that error because I wasn’t concentrated enough.”

“You are not a robot,” Atemu said. “Everyone makes mistakes.”

“Do you?” Yuugi looked at him with glistening eyes.

“I am not the one writing complicated codes and algorithms,” Atemu protested. He took Yuugi’s head into his hands and leaned into him to kiss him, dipping his elbow in the water.

“You’re going to ruin your Armani,” Yuugi said. “And you never make mistakes.”

“Habibi, this is not like you.” Atemu took off his jacket, folded the garment and put it aside. He rolled up the sleeves of his impeccable white dress shirt, ignoring the wet spots and resumed his earlier gesture, holding Yuugi’s head with his hands, fingers caressing his skin. “I have never seen you distressed like this.”

“Kaiba-kun had to stop an entire production line,” Yuugi said. “Do you know how much money he’s going to lose on that? If it’s my fault… and if he takes it out on the team…”

“What is the worst Kaiba can do to you?” Atemu pressed a kiss on the tip of his nose. “He can fire you. That is all right. We will get by on my salary until you find something else.”

“That’s not it,” Yuugi protested half-heartedly, weak because Atemu’s attention distracted him, and he eagerly responded to the kisses. “Nobody will hire me if I get sacked by Kaiba.”

“Why not?”

“KaibaCorp. is the world-wide leader in virtual technology. What does it say about me when I get fired?”

“This is nothing like you,” Atemu repeated and gently caressed his cheek. “You are upset.”

“I just hate the thought that I’m the one who made that mistake.”

“You do not know that.” He kissed him again. Yuugi shifted his position in the small tub, turning towards Atemu and pulling him closer at the same time, almost pulling him into the
water. The kisses became more eager. “I believe in you. Whatever happens, we will stay together and live through it.”

“I love you,” Yuugi said and wrapped his arms around Atemu, soaking the fabric of his dress shirt. Neither one of them cared. More kisses followed and they held each other in a strong embrace, until Atemu’s arm slipped from Yuugi’s shoulder and dunked into the water. His hand touched Yuugi’s thigh and he all but gasped. He tugged at Atemu’s collar.

“Habibi…”

“Go upstairs,” Yuugi breathed against his lips. “I want you so much.”

Atemu didn’t speak. He broke up the kiss, his eyes dark and half-lidded, and he grabbed his jacket before leaving the bathroom. Yuugi got out of the tub and toweled himself dry. What was he doing? Was he forcing Atemu into something he wasn’t ready for yet? Was he afraid to object, because he wanted to console him, Yuugi, at all costs? He felt conflicted. The physical desire was so strong, overpowering even… maybe he should turn on the shower again, but this time he should leave the water ice and ice cold. Yuugi climbed upstairs and half-way, he smelled… incense? Not-understanding, he opened the door to his room. No lights but soft, flickering candles and indeed, he could see the stick of incense, upright in its holder. After the cleansing rituals two days ago, Yuugi hadn’t gotten around to take care of the candles and incense and put them back into their proper place. In the time it had taken him to get out of the tub and dry himself off, Atemu had lit everything, including the incense. But where was the object of his affection? Yuugi smiled. He was in the bed, with the sheets pulled up to his nose, but his eyes didn’t express any fear or anxiety. Yuugi closed the door behind him and walked towards the bed. His hand went to the knot he tied his bathrobe with, but first, he had to know for sure.

“I want you,” he repeated. “Do you want me too?”

Atemu pulled the sheets a little tighter. “I am not wearing any pajamas,” he said.

“That’s a good start.” Yuugi hid a laugh behind his hand. The light from the candles cast a warm glow on Atemu’s tan skin. How could someone be so beautiful? Yuugi’s hand went, without thinking, to the sheet and his fingers hooked into the fabric. Holding his breath, Yuugi pulled the sheet down, very slowly, and Atemu let go of it. “You’re so beautiful,” he said out loud.

Atemu’s hands rested in his still covered lap. They had seen each other naked before, often taking showers together - but this… this was something else. This was an entirely different dimension. He found it difficult to breathe. Atemu cupped his cheek with his right hand.

“Show me,” he whispered.

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




Part 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |

This entry was originally posted at http://the-goldenpath.dreamwidth.org/83553.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
ragnarok_08
May. 27th, 2017 05:38 am (UTC)
Oh this was an amazing chapter ♥
the_goldenpath
May. 27th, 2017 08:28 am (UTC)
♥ ♥ Thank you for reading and commenting! I'm so glad you liked it~
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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