Disclaimer: The characters of Yu-Gi-Oh! are the creations of Kazuki Takahashi. I am only borrowing them for a bit of "no profit but the enjoyment of writing and reading" fun. This fanfic is a fusion with the romance novel Night of the Nile by Lynn Leslie, published by Harlequin Intrigue. The original plot and characters belong to their respective creators. The snark is mine. This story follows the original plot fairly closely up until the ending where it diverges wildly thanks to the YGO elements I substituted for the original's mangling of the Osiris myth.
Warnings: Wildly AU (alternate universe). Contains male/male romance (Yami/Yugi). Romantic suspence.
Notes: I don't usually do author's notes, but this fic requires a bit of explaining. It is a romance novel with a bit of mystery/suspense thrown in, as well as some cracky!humor. If you hate Harlequin-style, love-at-first-sight romances, this is not the fic for you. And, even though he is cast as the story's "heroine", Yugi is most definitely not a "damsel in distress." My Yugi has a backbone. He even gets to rescue Yami a few times. ;) Also, while I realize there are plenty of real world obstacles for same-sex couples, I only wanted to write a light, mostly-humorous romantic adventure story. So, consider this story to take place in a part of Romancelandia where real world bigotry takes a backseat to plot convenience.
Shadows on the Nile
A Yu-Gi-Oh! Romance Novel
Yugi Mutou awoke with a shout. He bolted upright, cracking his head on the side of the computer monitor, and knocking over the half-empty bottle of melon Ramune on the desk beside it. In the wake of the dream, he didn't even notice the rivulet of green soda spilling toward his keyboard. Convinced he was about to be crushed beneath a ton of rock, he crouched in his chair, curled his arms protectively over his head, and tried to make himself as small as possible. As if that would keep the ceiling from smashing him when it came down with the next tremor...
And then he realized - the only thing shaking was him.
As quickly as the terror had come, it fled. He gulped air and tried to persuade his body he wasn't in danger of suffocating in subterranean darkness, then collapsed bonelessly back onto the desk. That was when he noticed the soda.
He made a frantic grab for his work notes, just in time to save them from death by Ramune, and swept them and the keyboard to safety. Digging in the deep bottom drawer of the desk, he found some paper take-out napkins and used them to clean up the sticky spill. He tossed the mess into the trashcan and slumped back in his chair. Only then did it occur to him to wonder why he had been dreaming about an earthquake.
He looked around. He had fallen asleep at his desk working on the modifications for the new game release. His soda had been the only casualty of the supposed quake, and that only because he had knocked it over in his panic. So, did that mean there hadn't been a real earthquake?
The computer was still on and his antics had awakened it from stand-by mode, so it only took a mouse-click to bring up the local news service webpage. There was nothing about a quake, either in Domino City or anywhere else in Japan. Only slightly reassured, he checked the international news - and froze, staring at the headline. "6.2 Earthquake Rocks Egypt."
His heart pounding, he scanned the news item beneath the headline. There wasn't a lot of information; apparently, the earthquake had hit only a few hours ago. Had the quake triggered his nightmare? His grandpa was in Egypt - and this wouldn't be the first time a dream had warned Yugi that someone was in danger.
Yugi's heart clenched painfully. He checked his email, but no new messages from Sugoroku Mutou waited in his inbox. He fired up the instant messenger, but his grandpa wasn't online. Yugi's fists clenched and he resisted the urge to pound the keyboard. The telephone sat next to the computer, so he tried calling the museum in Cairo where Sugoroku worked, but an automated message informed him the phone lines were down. Dammit. He had to find out if his grandpa was all right. Since his parents' deaths when he was twelve, Sugoroku was the only family Yugi had left...
Abandoning the computer, Yugi ran to grab his cell phone, then dashed up the stairs to his bedroom. He yanked his suitcase from the shelf in the closet, tossed it onto the unmade bed, and hit the speed dial with one hand as he began throwing random clothes into the suitcase with the other.
The phone rang once, and a surly voice snapped, "Do you have any idea what time it is, Mutou?"
How had Seto known-? Oh, right. Caller I.D.
"Not really." Yugi glanced at the bedside clock, then squinted at the numbers to make certain he wasn't seeing things. Well, that explained why Seto was even grumpier than usual. "Sorry. Look, I won't be coming in to work today. Or tomorrow. Uh, maybe not for the rest of the week."
"You called me at four in the fucking morning to tell me you're taking an unscheduled vacation the day before the release of the new Duel Disk system, and right in the middle of negotiations with Devlin for the acquisition of Dungeon Dice Monsters?" There was a lengthy pause, during which Yugi had no difficulty imagining the expression on his business partner's face. When Seto spoke again, it was to growl, "Tell me why I shouldn't kill you now."
"Um, I'm sure there'd be lots of paperwork?" It wasn't the best defense Yugi had ever mustered, but his mind wasn't really on the conversation. He threw a handful of clean socks at the suitcase. Some of them went in. "You hate paperwork."
"Paperwork builds character."
A couple of random t-shirts followed the socks. "Then why do you try so hard to avoid it?"
"I already have all the character I need." A thoughtful pause. "I'll get Mokuba to do it for me."
"The paperwork. It'll be good for him." Paperwork dilemma solved, Seto turned back to the more pressing matter. "What's going on, Mutou? Why are you bailing out on me, and why couldn't you wait for a less homicide-inducing hour to tell me about it?"
"My grandpa's in trouble." Yugi didn't have any real proof that Sugoroku was in any kind of danger. He just knew it, as surely as he knew that the sun rose in the east. "I've got to go to Egypt and make sure he's okay."
"Egypt? You're making even less sense than usual -"
"There was an earthquake." And a dream that seemed more sinister by the second. Yugi rubbed the center of his chest, still feeling the ache of straining lungs as he struggled to breathe stale, dusty air. "Look, I know it sounds crazy, but I know he needs me, so I'm going to Egypt. Okay?"
"You 'know'." Seto's tone was flat. Yugi could practically see him rolling his icy blue eyes. "Is this more of that 'psychic' nonsense?"
"Yes, Seto. More of that psychic 'nonsense'," Yugi said, with far more patience than he actually felt. "The same psychic nonsense that told me where we'd find Mokuba that time he got kidnapped by those guys who wanted to take over your company. Remember?"
Ruminative silence. Then, reluctantly, "...I remember."
Two years ago, the board of directors of Kaiba Corporation had staged a hostile takeover - of their own CEO - by kidnapping said CEO's little brother. It had been a rough couple of days, most of which Yugi had spent trying to convince Seto Kaiba, a born skeptic if there ever was one, to listen to him. Fortunately, everything had turned out okay in the end, with Mokuba safe at home, the kidnappers under arrest - and a tentative friendship starting to bud between Yugi and Seto. Mokuba took to Yugi like a second big brother and, eventually, Yugi's unrelenting good nature won Seto over. Seto preferred to claim that he had been worn down rather than won over, but Seto was weird that way.
When Yugi came up with the idea for a card game based on images his grandpa had found in a tomb in Egypt, it seemed only reasonable for Seto to help get the idea off the ground. The two of them had become business partners, launched Duel Monsters - which had become an international hit almost overnight - and the rest was gaming history.
Despite all that, Seto still liked to pretend things like psychic dreams only happened to other people - specifically, people he didn't know. Normally, Yugi would have been happy to let Seto have his delusions, but this was an emergency.
"I'm really sorry to do this on such short notice, but I don't have a choice. I've got to go find my grandpa. He could be hurt or-"
"All right," Seto interrupted. "I'll handle everything here. Just... don't do anything stupid, Mutou." He cleared his throat and added gruffly, "Mokuba would be upset if something happened to you. And if you upset Mokuba, I really will have to kill you."
Yugi laughed. "Okay! I'll be careful. Thanks, Seto."
"Whatever." The phone clicked as the call disconnected.
Shaking his head, Yugi finished packing. He shoved a couple of manga magazines into a carry-on case, along with his phone, his passport, and - on a whim - the slim packet of letters his grandpa had written him from Egypt. He left the luggage on the bed, ran back downstairs to make travel arrangements over the internet, then back upstairs to take the world's fastest shower. In less than an hour, he was packed, dressed, and hauling his suitcases out to the taxi waiting for him at the curb.
The airports - Domino City to Tokyo to Cairo International - passed in a blur of long lines, baggage claims, and boredom. For once, he was glad of all the promotional traveling he did, since it meant his immunizations and passport were all up-to-date. After what felt like a million years, Yugi found himself hailing a taxi to take him to the Cairo Museum of Antiquities. He could barely keep his eyes open, but he figured he'd find his hotel after he checked with the Institute offices at the museum. Yugi hoped Sugoroku would be there, safe and well, but if he wasn't... Well, surely someone there would know where he was.
The driver wove through Cairo's crowded streets with an abandon that left Yugi's heart lodged somewhere in his esophagus. He swallowed hard, paid the fare, then lugged his suitcases up the wide stone steps into the museum. Blinking as his eyes adjusted from bright sunlight to dim interior, he gazed around, and finally caught the eye of the man behind the information desk.
The man shook his head at the sight of Yugi's suitcases. "I'm sorry, but you are not allowed to bring your luggage into the museum."
Letting said luggage fall to the floor at his feet, Yugi sagged against the counter. "I'm looking for Dr. Sugoroku Mutou. I'm his grandson. Could you please direct me to the Institute offices here?"
"I'm afraid your grandfather is away." The man shrugged. "But I believe you may find his superior, Dr. Daniel Viridian, in the jewelry exhibition room - just down that hall, then follow the signs. I will keep your luggage here for you while you are in the museum."
"Thank you." Yugi followed the directions through a maze of narrow hallways. Surely Dr. Viridian would know where Sugoroku was. Unless... Sugoroku had mentioned some sort of disagreement between himself and his superior over his theories about the Millennium Items. Before, the two had worked closely together despite their differences of opinion. Sugoroku had even been the one to give Dr. Viridian his famous moniker - Yami, the Japanese word for darkness or shadow. Now, Yugi had to wonder. Just how serious had their falling out been? Would it be enough to cause Dr. Viridian to hinder Yugi's search?
Soon, Yugi came to a small room crowded with tall, old-fashioned, glass-and-wood display cases. There was only one person in the room, a man bent over an open case. This was the celebrated "Yami" Viridian? Of average height, or slightly below it, he was dressed in khaki cargo pants and a white shirt that clung to his torso enough to hint at lean muscles beneath the utilitarian cotton. Yugi only caught a hint of a handsome, tanned profile partially hidden by a thick mane of unruly, dark auburn hair. As Yugi watched, Dr. Viridian slipped something from the exhibit into his pants pocket, something that flashed gold in the light. A piece of jewelry, possibly a necklace?
Worried about his grandpa, Yugi didn't dwell too long on what he had seen. Viridian worked for the Institute; maybe he was taking the necklace for closer study elsewhere. All that mattered now was finding out if Dr. Viridian knew what had happened to Sugoroku Mutou.
Hearing footsteps, Yami spun around, the purloined necklace a heavy weight in his pocket - and an even heavier one on his conscience. But it wasn't one of the museum's employees weaving his way between the display cases filled with ancient jewelry.
The figure was compact - shorter than his own height by at least six inches - and slender. He was dressed in jeans and a black t-shirt emblazoned with a graphic of a thin man in outrageous purple armor. A heavy leather watchband encircled one slim wrist. The other man's clothes were rumpled, as if he had slept in them, and his hair was in dire need of a comb. And what hair it was. The majority of it rose in black, red-tipped spikes that added a good three inches to his height, while bleached blond bangs jutted out stiffly around a sweetly rounded face. The look should have screamed "bad-ass punk, stay away." Instead, Yami found himself intrigued by the dichotomy of that face, with its huge amethyst eyes and inviting mouth, on someone with that hair and those clothes.
Even in the midst of crisis, he wanted to get to know this man. Hell, maybe he just wanted him. If he had been less of a realist, Yami would have labeled it 'love at first sight.' He took a second look at the vision before him and corrected himself: it was love at first sight. Or lust at first glimpse. One of those, for sure.
"Dr. Viridian? I'm Yugi Mutou."
Yami fought the urge to clutch at the talisman in his pocket. Instead, he shook Yugi's hand, his grip lingering a moment longer than was polite. He had never seen a photo of Sugoroku's grandson, but, now that he had heard the name, he recognized the family resemblance.
"Dr. Viridian, are you okay?"
Sure, he was. Except for that whole "staring at Yugi like an idiot while half his brain spun fantasies and the other half tried to figure out how to get Yugi out of Egypt before he got tangled up in Yami's current crisis" thing, he was peachy. He blurted out the first semi-coherent thought he could wrangle out of his misfiring synapses, which seemed to have decided to take a long lunch without his permission. "Yugi, what are you doing here?"
"I had to come. I'm very worried about my grandpa," Yugi said, peering up at Yami with wide, earnest eyes. "Can you tell me where he is?"
Before Yami could formulate a suitable, non-incriminating response, a new voice entered the conversation. "A question to which I, too, would like an answer. I've missed seeing Dr. Mutou around the Institute this last week or so."
Isis. Yami fumed. Where the hell had she come from? Had she seen him take the necklace? He couldn't risk- Oh, hell. What if Yugi had seen him take it? And what must Yugi think of him if he had?
Yami's conscience twinged again. He had little choice in the matter, but he didn't like feeling like a thief. Which, he realized with a stab of chagrin, he was, as of about two minutes ago. The necklace felt as if it were burning a hole in his pocket. He was surprised no one else could feel the heat radiating from the cursed thing.
A thief... no better than a tomb robber, no better than Sugoroku, if the old fool really had taken the Book of the Nameless Pharaoh from the museum. Yami was beginning to suspect Sugoroku had stolen it - and so was Interpol. The knot of dread in his stomach tightened. Even worse, what if Sugoroku had gotten mixed up with those crazy cult people by choice? The old man was obsessed with the myth of the Millennium Items, willing to risk his reputation and their friendship in his quest for the truth. If the cultists offered him something he thought would validate his lifelong search, would he take it?
For all Yami knew, the alleged cult member who called him with the ransom demand might have been Sugoroku. Even at the time, Yami had thought the whole business bizarre. Holding an archaeologist hostage in exchange for an artifact? The cult - if it was the cult, and not Sugoroku himself - didn't want money or unlikely political action. They wanted what they claimed was the Millennium Necklace. Or was it Sugoroku, using Yami to acquire the necklace for his own unfathomable purposes?
Yami's temples throbbed. This mess was getting worse by the moment. What a time for Yugi, the most intriguing man he had ever seen, to walk into his life. Clearly, Yami reflected, Fate hated him. He must have done something truly awful in a past life.
Speaking of awful... God's gift to Yami's bad day had joined them by the display case and was introducing herself to Yugi.
"Since Dr. Viridian seems to have forgotten his manners," Isis said, taking Yugi's hand and holding it in what Yami considered an overly familiar fashion, "allow me to introduce myself. I am Isis Ishtar, a humble inspector with the Supreme Council of Antiquities."
"Oh! Well, maybe you can help me? I'm trying to find my grandpa-"
Damn it all, was Yugi blushing? Yami glared at Isis, who still hadn't let go of Yugi's hand. "Ms. Ishtar doesn't keep track of the Institute's staff. I do." He thought fast. "Sugoroku isn't in Cairo at the moment. He's gone upriver. Near Luxor. On sabbatical until the dig next month."
"Does he have his cell phone with him?" Yugi's amethyst eyes practically shone with hope.
Yami swallowed. Those eyes should be registered as lethal weapons. The lie died, unspoken, on his lips. Fuck. He really was a goner, wasn't he? "I- I don't know," he stammered. "I haven't been able to reach him."
"Then I guess I'll just have to go upriver myself," Yugi said, with a determined lift of his chin. "I've always wanted to see Luxor. Once I find him, Grandpa and I can enjoy his vacation together. Thank you both for your help."
Oh, crap. When Yugi started to turn away, Yami reached out to stop him. Isis beat him to it. Yami stared at her hand on Yugi's arm and tried, unsuccessfully, not to growl. He crammed his hands in his pockets, and scowled at the man-stealing she-beast from hell.
"Mr. Mutou, please think for a moment," Isis said, in a soft, oh-so-reasonable tone that made Yami want to throw something. Preferably at her. His fingers clenched around the necklace. It had a solid heft to it, though the heavy amulet at its center might throw off the aerodynamics a bit. "You are a stranger to Egypt, and Luxor is nearer to the epicenter of the earthquake. It is not a safe place for you to travel at this time, especially alone."
Yugi faltered. He shifted so that his arm pulled free of Isis' grasp (Yami felt like cheering), then turned that hopeful look on Yami again. Yami tensed and tried to steel his heart against the entreaty in those large, expressive eyes. It didn't work this time either.
With a tentative little smile that did all kinds of interesting things to Yami's nervous system, Yugi asked, "What do you think I should do, Dr. Viridian?"
Marry me, Yami thought, then had to bite his tongue to keep from blurting it out loud. What the hell was wrong with him, anyway? He couldn't be thinking of things like that at a time like this. But being around Yugi was intoxicating, like uncovering a treasure hidden for thousands of years. Unfortunately, Yugi was a treasure Yami couldn't have.
Shaking his head to clear it, Yami said, "I'm going to Luxor tomorrow. I'll find Sugoroku and have him call you at your hotel."
"I'm staying at the Mena House," Yugi said. He glanced from Isis to Yami, as if uncertain which of them was more reliable. Yami wished Isis would suddenly discover an urgent errand - possibly on the dark side of the moon. "Um, do you think I could go with you, Dr. Viridian? To Luxor, I mean."
Feeling like a heel for what he was about to do, Yami nodded. He gazed down at his boots, unable to look Yugi in the eyes and lie. "Sure. I'll call you first thing in the morning with the details."
Yugi might be glassy-eyed with exhaustion, but he wasn't stupid. That much was obvious from the way he studied Yami's studiously blank expression for a long moment before he seemed satisfied. Then he smiled, and Yami's breath froze in his throat. It was worse than the eyes, by a factor of about a million. If Yugi's eyes were lethal, his smile was a weapon of mass destruction - at least where Yami's heart was concerned.
"Thank you, Dr. Viridian. I'll be waiting for your call."
Yugi bestowed a final look on Yami that left him wanting to lunge after Yugi and promise to be a better person. Then, with a slight bounce in his step despite his obvious fatigue, Yugi headed back up the hallway. Isis and Yami watched him until he was out of sight. The two of them let out identical sighs, then turned to glare at each other.
"You know him well?" Isis asked, her sly tone setting Yami's teeth on edge. "I cannot believe you've never mentioned him to me... Though, perhaps, you thought to keep such a magnificent specimen to yourself? I can certainly understand if such is the case."
I never liked you, Yami thought, eyes narrowing. "I've never seen him before today."
"Truly?" She smiled - a slow, syrupy smile designed to antagonize him. "And now that you have, what do you intend to do, I wonder? He doesn't seem to know anything about Dr. Mutou's misfortune."
Yami's grip on the necklace tightened so much the raised eye at its center bit into his palm. The heat of the thing burned his fingers. "What are you talking about?"
"Everyone is talking about the terrible theft of the Book of the Nameless Pharaoh. As I'm sure you're aware, having spoken to them yourself, Interpol is very interested in questioning Dr. Mutou. It seems likely they believe he has something to do with the missing papyri, does it not?"
"Interpol questioned the entire staff," Yami reminded her. His cold smile didn't reach his narrowed eyes. "Including me, as you've just alluded to."
"Of course. Dr. Mutou is your friend... I meant no offense." She dipped her head, but her eyes gave lie to the apology. "May your journey to Luxor be a safe one, Dr. Viridian."
Yami watched her glide from the room, his mind filled with equal parts worry and suspicion. Did she suspect the truth?Had she seen him take the necklace?
He pulled his hands from his pockets and flexed the left one, the hand that had been wrapped so tightly around the necklace. On his palm, the faint red outline of an Egyptian eye showed where the amulet had pressed deeply into his flesh. When he ran his fingers over the outline, it tingled as it faded.
Deciding he shouldn't wait around for something else to go weird, Yami made his escape. He had an appointment to keep in Luxor. The phone call he'd received had told him to book passage aboard the River Horse with Pegasus Tours for the cruise from Luxor to Aswan. He could only hope they'd uphold their end of the bargain and swap Sugoroku for the necklace as promised.
He had no intention of calling Yugi at the Mena House. After all, this journey to Luxor might prove to be a one-way trip - for him and Sugoroku. There was no way he would risk Yugi's life, too.
Notes: In the original book, Our Hero is named for actor Harrison Ford (the character's name is Fordham I. Harris). I liked the idea, so I decided to name this story's hero for another actor. "Viridian" is a shade of green. So "Daniel Viridian" equals "Dan Green" (Yami's English dub voice actor). Yami's description has been "de-anime-fied" for this story, since it takes place in a slightly more realistic setting than Anime World. ;) I don't believe he has three-toned hair, anyway. It's two colors: dark red, which appears black or almost-black closer to his head, and blond. But that's a weird combo to pull off as natural. So, I'm taking liberties with his "look" for SotN. Also, since the official art for the series shows both Yami and Yugi with just about every eye color imaginable, I've given him brown eyes here for reasons that will probably make sense once you've reached the climax of the story. (If not, feel free to ask.)
The former prologue has been removed and posted as a separate side-story/prequel to this one. The difference in tone and POV between the prologue and the main fic seemed to confuse some readers or even put them off reading SotN, which of course is not something any author likes to hear. If you're curious about what got Yugi's grandpa into the mess he's in, please read "Found and Lost" (posted under this same account name). Thanks, and I hope you enjoy the story!