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Everyday I Thank the Gods for You

Chapter Text

The dark silence that followed the Pharaohs departure from the world of the living was eerie and cold, but was broken quickly by the sobs of a boy. His friends watched, unable to move, as he fell to his knees once again and started to stain the cool concrete with his tears. They wanted to move over to him and comfort him somehow, but something held them back, and they stood frozen on their spots, uncomprehending.

Minutes passed, and as Yugi's sobs quieted down, he looked up, past his friends, fixing his gaze on the gate Atem had left through. In an instant, he was on his feet, rushing over to the huge stone entrance. With an almost reverent carefulness, he placed his palms on it. Were his hands shaking? Unable to bring himself to care, he pushed, scraping his skin on the rough stone without feeling the physical pain.

The gate didn't budge, but he tried harder nonetheless, not noticing the glistening red he was leaving on it.

“No...it has to open. He's just behind it, he's just behind this! It has to open!”, his words started in a frantic whisper and ended in a shrill, panicked shriek. The tears began to flow once again, and his fists hammered now, sending jolts of numb pain through him. “He can't...he's not gone, he can't be...”, Yugi choked.

Something startled his friends out of their trance, and they started to move, rushing to him, pulling him away from the bloodied wall – because that's what it was now, just a wall – trying desperately to calm him down.

“Let me go! You should help, we can move it together, he can come right back through it, please!”, the tiny duelist begged. Joey held on to his arms for dear life, needing to stop his friend from hurting himself further and mentally chiding himself for not reacting immediately when he realized what Yugi was doing. “Yugi, he's gone. Gone, do you hear me? And it's for the better. He's not coming back, and we're leaving this place now.” Who was this voice? He wanted that voice to shut up, it was horrible and lying, he wouldn't believe such lies, he knew the truth, he knew his Yami would not leave him just like that. He shook his head in a fast, jerky motion. “NO! Be quiet! I don't believe you. We have to break it down, he'll be waiting right behind it, you'll see! Tell him Téa, tell him it's not true!”

She just looked at him with an unfathomably sad look in her eyes.

Why would she be sad? Atem was fine and waiting for them. “I'm so sorry Yugi, but it is the truth. Atem is not coming back, he's dead.”

He moaned “No, no no no no...”

As he sobbed, Joey let go of his arms in cheerless relief, feeling the energy drain out of his friend. The blond knew one minute longer and he would have started to cry, too. Or worse.

Yugi felt someone very warm put his arms around him. He put his head on that person's shoulder, and cried.

Chapter Text

“Isis I have had enough! We have to find a way to do something about this situation!”, Osiris exclaimed angrily one beautiful summer morning (It was stupid to even mention that. In the realm of the Egyptian Gods, every morning was a beautiful summer morning).

“Huh? What do you mean? Is someone not behaving again? Send out Ammat or something. Let her deal with it in that unique way of hers. I'm not really in the mood to solve any problems.”, answered Isis, bored already even though the day had not even really started yet.

“But you just have to help! Come on please, I can't find a solution, and I really don't feel like seeing Ammat. We're still fighting because she won't admit she's wrong.” Osiris huffed irately.

Isis sighed. “You are a god who is fighting with a goddess about a boring game like Senet.”, he stared at her angrily until she sighed and said “Well, tell me what the problem is and I'll decide whether or not I wish to assist you.”

“It's about that stupid, crazy Pharaoh.”

“Atem?” The god of the dead, underworld and afterlife nodded eagerly, glad she was catching on quickly. “I thought you'd never decide to do something about that annoyingly wretched mood of his. It is quite pitiful.”, she drawled, now sitting up on the huge, comfy couch she had been lounging on.

“You mean you noticed too?”, he asked, caught by surprise.

“Of course I noticed, Osiris. Even Tut has noticed, and you know that brat almost never notices anything and anyone but himself since that stupid Carter found his tomb and the humans started to fuss over him... I'm surprised it took you so long. Atem has been getting on everybody's nerves for about two years now.”, the goddess of magic, motherhood and fertility answered.

“You did? He has?”, Osiris asked, quite astonished.

“Stop babbling like that, you sound ridiculous. It has been going on long enough now. A Pharaoh who has entered his afterlife is not supposed to mope around for lost love or whatever else is making him so sad. He's supposed to dance around and enjoy that he's dead, not sit there and wallow in misery all day long every day for eternity. Do you realize what his problem is? Because I'm not sure”, she demanded.

Osiris moaned. “I took the liberty of finding out. He realized he loves someone...who's still alive. And that person is still so young it'll probably take him another seventy years to die! And we'll be stuck with the sunshine pharaoh until then!” Isis looked at him like he had gone mad.

Well, maybe he had ...

Why don't we just kill the kid? I mean, you do mean Yugi Mutou, right? Because he loves Atem, too.”

He nodded again, not bothering to ask how the hell his partner had found out about that. Some questions were better left unanswered. “It is. Have you ever taken a look at the boy?” She shook her head.

“Well I have. I could not kill him if I tried. Not possible.”, he said, shaking his head miserably.

“What do you mean? You do remember that you're a god, right? A weird green one, yes, but you're still a god. You can kill whoever you want. Make a car crash happen or something. It is common enough.”, she was really confused now. Why in the world was he making such a fuss if he already knew the solution to his little 'problem'? Getting the Mutou boy here was as easy as taking a toy from a child (and, in this case, giving it to an irritating dead pharaoh).

In answer, the god snapped his fingers, and a mirror appeared. He snapped them once again, and a picture started to form on the shiny glass. “You don't understand. Have a look. This is what he looks like.”

Isis looked. And looked. And kept looking, unable to tear her eyes away. “Are you sure he is human? Make the picture bigger.”, she commanded, her voice full of something that sounded like awe. Osiris complied, increasing the size of his magical mirror until Yugi's picture was almost life-sized and waited for her to react.

Isis had never seen such innocence, and such goodness in the simple image of a man. A pretty young one, too.

“How old is he?”, she wondered aloud.

“Not sure, don't really care. Sixteen or seventeen. He just looks so young and...there's something about him. Can you have a look at his soul? I'm curious and you're good at that kind of thing.”

“Sure. Give me a minute.”, the goddess closed her eyes and concentrated on the picture of the boy that was probably never going to leave her mind again for the rest of her existence. It was just a picture, so what she was seeing of his soul was very little, but wow.

Just for curiosity’s sake, she entered his Mind Room first. When she opened her eyes, Isis thought she had made a mistake and entered a toddler's mind, because, could a seventeen-year-old be so innocent and sweet and simply good? But the knowledge that she couldn't have made a mistake reassured her.

 

Looking around, she saw that it was full of colors, but they were faded. There was an incredibly sad, dismal mood here. Wafts of mist surrounded her, the kind of mist that only appeared if someone was terribly depressed and in lots of emotional pain. At first she thought that was due to Atem's death – Osiris had said he loved him, after all – but then she recalled that that had been years ago.

Had Yugi lost someone dear to him in the last few weeks?

It didn't look like it. Maybe it was because of Atem after all, but the emotions here were very foggy and she couldn't put her finger on the exact reasons. She was not sure why, but Isis knew that she needed to make this boy happy again, that he deserved to be happy no matter what. That he had gone through enough.

No, she would not permit his death. It was way too early for him, she decided as she took in the scattered toys and pictures everywhere. Between them, she could make out several dueling cards, the only things that were not faded and greyish, but full of life and colors.

There was Kuriboh – a card that certainly fitted this cute boy – the Dark Magician and Dark Magician Girl, as well as Slifer, Ra and Obelisk. She spotted all five parts of Exodia, too, but they looked old and dusty. Several others were lying on the floor with the picture down. However, she didn't really want to turn them around and find out which cards they were.

After a final look around, she closed her eyes again and travelled to where Yugi was now, to take a look at his soul, as well as to see what he was doing.

 

Isis was standing in a small but nicely kept bathroom, where, on the floor, Yugi was sitting with his arms wrapped around his legs, oblivious to her as she was invisible to him. He wore dark blue pants that probably belonged to a school uniform, a black, sleeveless shirt and a black collar around his neck.

She could see why the Pharaoh loved him: both his soul and body were of the same ethereal beauty. The woman couldn't help but wonder what kind of a lover he would be.

His head was resting on his knees, and he looked slightly older than in Osiris' picture. Taller and thinner but somehow leaner, too. Yugi was also sobbing quietly, and the goddess noticed that his left wrist was wrapped in clean white gauze, it's color only a few shades lighter than his skin.

Despite his beauty, he looked unhealthy and thin – too thin. She walked over to him and touched her fingers to his bandaged wrist, wanting to know who or what had hurt this boy, who was so very clearly the soulmate of Atem that she was amazed to be the first to notice. To her, the bond between them was visible like bands of light, entwining their fates, their hearts and – to an extent – even their minds.

The next things she saw, she knew, had happened only a few days before. Yugi was in the same bathroom again, clutching something that looked suspiciously like a razor blade. There was a bandage on the floor, torn and stained red, but none on his wrist this time. He had obviously taken it off, and this was evidently not the first time he was doing this, as there were several red scars on his wrist, standing out on his otherwise unmarked skin. Some were very faint, almost completely healed, others still a dark red.

To Isis' eyes, the scene was as blurry as it was in Yugi's recollection, but she could still see what he was doing clearly enough. He was dragging the blade across his skin, letting tears escape his eyes and ignoring the several people who were knocking on the locked door.

Whoever they were, they knew what he was doing, and they knew it was not the first time.

Why weren't they doing more to help him? Why was nobody knocking down the door? Why was no one taking this boy into their arms and comforting him? Why did he have access to a razor blade when it was well-known what he would do with it?

Blood oozed from the small wound Yugi had created, slowly dripping onto the white tiles of the bathroom floor. The cut was very shallow, but it didn't seem like Yugi was done yet. Isis swallowed the lump that had begun forming in her throat, trying to keep watching.

“That's right. That's a better kind of pain...a bearable kind of pain...I can deal with this. This pain is nothing to the other kind.”, Yugi was whispering to himself, dragging the sharp blade across his skin, again and again and again, letting out a small moan and making the goddess' heart break with that tiny sound.

Come on, woman. You've seen much worse than that. She told herself angrily. And this is part of the past already, so you can't change it.

Yugi dragged the blade across his skin.

The people at the door seemed to have given up, and the silence that suddenly spread through the room was almost eerie.

Dark red blood dripped on the white floor tiles.

No, I can't change it. But I can prevent it from happening again.

 

She closed her eyes for a final time and went back to where Osiris was waiting for her, pacing impatiently. “So? What did you see?”, he asked as soon as she reopened her eyes. “Do you know what we can do? I mean it Isis, I will not kill him, get it?”

The goddess couldn't help but smile through the tears that had begun forming in her eyes. “No, you're right.”, she whispered. “His soul is even more beautiful than it looks from the outside. I won't permit his untimely death. Do you know what I thought when I entered his Mind Room? I thought that I had made a mistake, and that...that I'd entered some little child's mind. Isn't that crazy? Me, thinking I made a mistake?!” The usually calm woman seemed close to panicking.

He is so pure and kindhearted and sad. Osiris, we must make him happy again. Let's make him happy. Life in the afterworld is so boring anyway, so this will be a nice way to pass some time, too! Please! I don't care what we have to do just...I don't want him to cry. I feel that he has cried enough in the past years.”

Her partner couldn't help but chuckle a little at her enthusiasm. Looking at souls always made her a bit emotional. “Okay! I think he deserves to be happy, too. But how? I have no idea how to accomplish that!”

Isis rolled her eyes, regaining control of her emotions. “Are you really that stupid or do you just pretend because you know I find it cute? It's so simple , really...I can't believe we let him hurt for years .”

“Will you tell me what the hell you're going on about? I fucking get it already, I'm stupid and you're the most intelligent woman in the universe. Now tell me your idea or I'll just go kill your precious Yugi!”, he hissed playfully.

Isis grinned and quickly answered, “Geez, don't always be so impatient! You wouldn't dare hurt him anyway, now that you know he's important to me.”, her lover huffed indignantly, but she ignored him and continued “Look, we can just send Atem back! They'll both be happy, and in sixty or maybe even seventy years they'll be back here again anyway. With the little extra that Atem will behave just like a good, happy little Pharaoh!”

“Send...him...back?”, Osiris stuttered, baffled.

Isis had to suppress the urge to roll her eyes again. “I know it's been done before. Someone being sent back, I mean.”

“Yeah, and look what it's done to the world! It's worse than any cult!”

“Well, this time we'll do it right. We'll send him to the world of the living, just him, his nineteen-year-old self. No special powers or anything. You will take care of that, and I'll plant the wish to go to Egypt in Yugi and his friends' heads. Then they can pick him up and take him to Japan. This plan is absolutely fool-proof! And Yugi will be happy! Come on Osiris, they're soulmates!”

The green-skinned god knew right then that asking Isis for help was the best idea he had ever had. Even though he had no idea what she had seen to make her so eager to see those two happy together, he was convinced that sending Atem back was the right thing to do. So he set to work immediately, summoning Anubis and Thoth to ask for them to approve of his new plan, as well as Atem, to tell him of his decision and to let him know the details of this little deal.

 

~About the same time; Domino City, Japan~

 

Yugi Mutou's life had changed drastically in the past years. He had started out as a more or less (hell, probably less) normal student who liked playing games and whom people liked to bully. Then he had solved a really old 3D puzzle. As a result of that he'd harbored part of an ancient pharaoh's soul for a while, only to fall in love with him and to realize that after said pharaoh was already gone forever (or so it seemed).

 

He really had tried, and very hard, too, to forget him, to move on, to ignore his feelings, to cry them into his pillows, to write them down, to admit them to his best friends...nothing helped. No matter what he did, he just couldn't let go of the deep, overwhelming sadness he felt all the freaking time. Some things helped a bit, others made it worse. Studying helped concentrate on other things, complicated math problems and English vocables distracted him, demanded his attention enough that he could – not for long, but still – forget that voice that had dominated his mind for so long.

That was why hardly anyone noticed what was wrong with him...in the beginning. There is no way that a boy whose marks are excellent has any real problems, right?

Wrong.

 

In the first weeks and months after Atem – surprisingly, thinking the name didn't hurt so much – had left, he felt numb, as he slowly came to realize that what he felt for his Yami was more than deep friendship. It was so much more, and so much he couldn't put into words.

Téa had soon started to notice he was hiding things and, true to her character, found out and informed Joey, Tristan and his grandfather. They all tried to help as best as they could, talking to him about letting go, or listening to him ramble about his feelings, or holding him when he cried.

And yet, in the end, none of his friends could really understand what he had shared with Atem, as none of them had ever experienced such a thing. Kaiba wanted him to see a psychiatrist to 'heal' whatever was wrong with him. Whenever he or someone else suggested it, though, Yugi threw a temper tantrum and locked himself into his room, not coming out for hours.

It was about eight months after that fateful duel, when Solomon Mutou decided to use some more drastic methods to 'help' his grandson. With the aid of an old friend who was a doctor, he got anti-depressants and started to put them into Yugi's food. It even worked for a while, and the poor boy's mood seemed to lift little by little.

However, Yugi didn't understand why he was starting to feel better again, and that bothered him to no end. Was he forgetting Atem? Had so much time passed already? He could not let that happen! He couldn't simply let those memories die! He talked to his grandfather about it, but the old man didn't seem to want to hear any of it. “It's not a crime that you're moving on, Yugi. It isn't healthy to mourn about things you can't change. You forgetting about him is a good thing.”

Solomon hoped for the best, and kept making sure Yugi ingested the little white pills that stopped him from looking for ways to let out his pain.

It went on like that for a few months, and it seemed that everything would be fine again soon enough. Maybe he could even stop giving Yugi those pills, seeing as he was doing remarkably well. Until one day in early spring, Yugi was searching for a lost card and stumbled over a little white box. He didn't think much of it, except then a few words someone had scribbled on the box caught his eye:

One per day should be enough for your grandson. If you feel he's doing really great, tone it down to half a pill, or one every two days.

Those two sentences motivated him to open the box and read the package insert very thoroughly, and it was clear very fast that this 'medicine' was most certainly not meant for his grandfather.

He was almost done, when said grandfather decided to close the game shop for the day. For a split second, Yugi didn't know how to react. Then he used an eerily cold voice to ask “Grandpa, will you please tell me what this is?”

The question sounded more like a command, and Solomon scrambled to find an excuse, but unfortunately for him, Yugi was not stupid enough to believe anything he could have come up with so quickly. “You're giving me drugs to keep me happy? Is that your idea of helping?I can't believe you!! Couldn't you ask be if I wanted this before?”, he hissed furiously.

A part of Solomon was scared, the other surprised to see his grandson showing so much rage. “Yugi, I knew you would never have agreed. That's why I didn't ask you. And you can't expect me to sit here and watch you hurt all the time. Please understand. They've been helping you, haven't they? Just try it for a little while longer.” The former archaeologist had been so sure Yugi would be alright soon...

“No. If you knew I wouldn't have agreed, you shouldn't have tried in the first place.”

 

From then on, Yugi started to get on the internet and learned how to make food, never eating anything he hadn't prepared himself.

Everyone expected it, but nonetheless, when it happened they were all frightened to death, unlike Yugi, who seemed not to feel anything anymore. He was going back to his favorite way of dealing with emotional pain: replacing it with physical pain in the easiest way possible. Not even Ryou, who had had Bakura's wretched, messed-up and sneaky spirit in his body for so long, could tell how and where Yugi was getting those blades.

His friends still walked home with him from school, still visited to tell him about their day and to listen to what little he would tell them. Solomon made sure to keep anything that had the slightest potential to be dangerous out of Yugi's reach, and Yugi never seemed to go out.

Nobody knew where he was hiding them, or how he kept getting new ones when someone managed to take them away from him. If anyone dared to ask any questions or tried to talk to him about it, he got angry and locked up, yelling that “NONE OF YOU UNDERSTANDS HOW I FEEL SO SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LEAVE ME ALONE!”

To his relief, they started to give him as much space as they could, and not just because he wanted them to – It's just difficult to talk to someone who blows up simply because you asked him how he slept.

 

 

~

And so the days become weeks. The weeks turn into months.

The time passes agonizingly, slowly, painfully, but at least it passes.

Life goes on, and the memories start to fade. I don't want them to fade, but I don't know how to stop it.

~

 

 

Chapter Text

A few days ago, the summer holidays had started, and nothing indicated that the sunny, warm afternoon was to become one of the worst days in several people's lives.

Having no homework to do, duellist and high school student Yugi Mutou had exhausted his pool of distractions, and the peace and quiet was giving him room to think as he lay on his bed, staring at the ceiling.

Too much room to think. As the day wore on and the sky turned orange, the only thing left on his mind was Atem. He tried reading, doing a complicated new puzzle, looking at new cards and figuring out new strategies...

Suddenly, the room seemed too small, his clothes too tight, the summer heat too unbearable, and his chest ached and constricted. His eyes fell on the digital clock on his bedside table and he realized it was exactly two years ago that he had been left alone – figuratively speaking, of course. Yugi knew he wasn't alone in the literal sense, he still had grandpa, Joey, Tristan, Téa, Ryou...

He closed his eyes and fought down a sob. It was like the picture of those eyes was printed into his mind forever. Why should he keep living like this? Hurting like this? Why should he study and go to what Kaiba called his 'Duties as the King of Games' – stupid gala dinners and duels with so-called champions that never beat him anyway – and eat and sleep and go on and on and on, perfect to cameras and teachers, but wretched and hurting on the inside?

His grandpa was downstairs in the game shop, his friends off somewhere … nobody would notice, and nobody would find out. And he could distract himself from this. No room to think was left in his mind. He took off the leather handcuff he still wore often as his feet carried him to the bathroom almost automatically, where he pulled that wonderful piece of gleaming silver metal off the underside of his favourite shampoo. For several seconds, he just stared at the blade, watching it reflect the pale light of the moisture-proof lamp.

'Do you really want to do this again? He wouldn't like you doing this...'

These two sentences were old news to Yugi.

They always entered his mind when he was about to do this, and were, as usual, followed by 'Who fucking cares. He's not here to say 'Aibou, this is not a way to deal with problems. Lets just send whoever hurt you to the shadow realm.'

There was no pharaoh, and nobody to send to the shadow realm.

'Here we go again. You are so pathetically weak.'

The silver gleaming of the blade was almost hypnotizing, enchanting, promising him relief from the ache in his heart.

'I'm weak? So what? I do not. Fucking. Care.'

Abruptly, he felt a burning hot anger surge through him. In no time, his wrist was free of handcuff and gauze, and then there was only pain.

 

It was Téa who found him, having wanted to say hello on her way home from her dancing lesson. Solomon just sent her upstairs, trying to ignore the nagging feeling he had in his chest. He was still trying to convince himself that everything was fine, when he heard Téa's scream.

 

Within seconds, the ambulance was called and the bleeding in Yugi's wrist stilled. Solomon and Téa called Joey and Tristan, and someone informed Kaiba, too, for some reason. Yugi had gone too far this time, and it looked like he'd almost died of blood loss.

 

It was almost midnight when they got permission to see him. Yugi was fast asleep, looking tiny and vulnerable and pale in his seemingly huge hospital bed. The doctor, a severe blonde woman in her mid-thirties, stood beside his bed when Solomon, Joey, Téa, Tristan and – god only knew why – Kaiba walked in. The second she saw them, she began her explanations, foregoing greetings as she saw the anxious expressions before her.

“We had to give him blood transfusions, and he's still very weak. That's why I decided to give him sleeping medication for the time being. He's also much too thin, so he's being fed through that tube you can see on his arm. You have ten minutes, and then I would like you to go home and let him rest. We will know more tomorrow morning, but I'm pretty sure he'll be fine again soon.”

She seemed to want to say something else, but then her beeper sounded and she excused herself and left after glancing at the small black device.

 

Nobody spoke for a long time, and the group exited the hospital reluctantly about fifteen minutes later. Yugi's friends went home with Solomon, since none of them wanted to leave him alone, no matter for how long.

They reassembled in the living room and, after making coffee for everyone, Téa finally broke the heavy silence. “I can't believe we let it come to this.”

“Me neither” Tristan agreed. “We have to do something, I don't care if he doesn't want us to, he can't go on like this.”

Joey sighed. “Does anyone have an idea? Because my mind is blank. I mean, haven't we been through everything that could be done in a situation like this?”

“A situation like this?”, Kaiba hissed “What are you talking about? There is no situation like this. But I agree that we have to do something drastic, and soon. He's the King of Games, and I can't take him to that championship in a month if he's a wreck like this. You've supposedly been his best friends for years, don't you have any ideas what could be done?”

“You're such a heartless bastard! You're only here because you need him to advertise your games!”, Joey shot back furiously. He bantered with the company director for a few moments, but Solomon quickly got tired of it. He was out of his mind with worry, and these kids were not helping. His grandson was in the hospital because he was too useless to find a way to help him. The owner of the Kame Game shop felt terribly guilty and angry with himself.

“Will you be quiet! I really don't feel like listening to your childish dispute now! Yugi is in the hospital and I did nothing to prevent it. It's all my fault, I was supposed to take care of him...”, he half-yelled, almost choking up. He hated the feeling of being useless, like he was too old to be of any help to anybody.

“That's not true!”, Joey immediately disagreed “You tried your best, but it just didn't work, and that's not your fault. He's our best friend, and we will work something out. I don't know why, but...I have a feeling that he'll be really happy again very soon. I might not know how yet, but trust me, he will be fine.”

This short speech gave everyone some hope and, after talking for a while, resolved to meet again in the hospital the following morning. That night, even Seto Kaiba went to bed with a heavy heart, but a determination to make Yugi laugh again. Sure, they had not formed an exact plan yet, but they were sure it was close.

 

~Meanwhile in the Realm of the Egyptian Gods~

 

Isis smiled at the picture that floated in the air in front of her. Her plan was working perfectly. It hurt her heart a bit that she hadn't been able to save Yugi the hospital stay, but she knew – just like his friend – that he'd be happy again soon. One last thing had to be done.

She entered a certain blonde doctor's Mind Room and planted a tiny little thought in there. And that was it. Then she went looking for Osiris. As expected, she found him with Anubis and Thoth in one of the nicer sitting rooms their palace had. The three gods were currently arguing about something. It seemed that Thoth didn't want to send back Atem and he was angry that nobody really cared about his opinion anyway.

The goddess of motherhood resolved to step in. This was no time to argue, it was a time to act . Yugi could kill himself at any time, and these gods didn't have the right kind of authority to bring back someone who was no Pharaoh. Sure, they were allowed to meddle a bit, but bring him back from a death he had chosen himself? No way.

“Hello everyone.”, she nodded her greetings to Anubis and presented Thoth with a wide, flirtatious smile.

“Hi there”, he said, smiling back.

Osiris barely held back a snort. He knew exactly what she was doing, that manipulative woman.

Thoth, it's so nice to see you around! You should really come see us more often. I always miss you so fast!” The god of wisdom practically preened when he heard her words, not noticing that she was using his feelings to get him to do what she wanted. “Well, I am quite busy all the time. You know, being the god of wisdom and all. But I promise to look in more often, if it makes you so happy.”

At that, Anubis exchanged a look with Osiris as if to say 'Seriously? He still hasn't gotten it?'

Osiris just grinned at his companion, glad not to have to fight Thoth again.

That's great! So.”, Isis began, getting to serious business now. “I hope you have decided you want to help, Thoth. I don't think Osiris and Anubis could do this without you, and it is so very important to me. I would be sad forever if Atem couldn't go back to his little Yugi. They make such a wonderful couple, don't you think? A Yami and his Hikari, together! How I love the idea. Also, they're soulmates, did you know?”

The three males gaped at her openly for a split second, before Anubis got it together again and asked, “We allowed a Pharaoh to stay apart like that from his soulmate? This long? No fucking way!”

Isis gave the men a solemn look. “We did. It looks like a few millennia of having next to nothing to do made us lazy and unobservant.”

And the rest is history, as they say. Thoth agreed to help, claiming that he wished to have done this much, much earlier and getting to work swiftly and with no complains at all.

 

~Domino City, late morning after the day Yugi Mutou was hospitalized due to severe blood loss~

 

“Good morning Mr. Mutou. I'm happy to tell you that your grandson is doing much better. He'll be up again in no time! I'm sorry to have told you so little last night, I was very stressed because I'd had a long shift behind me. Yugi lost much less blood than it first looked like. He only fainted because he hasn't been eating well and his body was weak. He'll have to eat and drink lots of healthy food, but I'm confident that we can release him by the end of this or next week if he follows my orders.”, the blonde doctor said the next morning, sounding almost giddy with relief. She'd obviously taken a liking to him.

At the end of her speech, Téa, Joey and Tristan started talking all at the same time.

“That's such a relief!”, “It's okay, we understand that you were under lots of stress.”, “Can we see him now?”

The doctor's face fell a little. “Not yet, there is still something I would like to discuss with you all for a bit.”

In their expressions, she could see that they expected her next words already, since she had always prided herself on being very good at reading people. “See, I want to help you prevent something like this from happening again. I won't ask what brought this sweet boy so far as to hurt himself, because I feel that it isn't my place to do so. However, have you thought about letting him see a mind healer for a while?”

It was Téa who replied in a surprisingly calm voice. “Yes. We all tried to talk to him about it a lot, but no matter what any of us say, the topic just makes him angry. It really is no use at all even though we still try at intervals.”, she decided not to mention the anti-depressants, seeing as the doctor had probably read about that in his medical record anyway.

“Well”, the woman continued, seeming to have anticipated Téa's answer “how about going away for a while? The holidays have started, you can take him somewhere for a while. Let him choose. Just get away from Domino City for some time. Relax in an Onsen or something like that. It will help him clear his mind and think about nicer things. What do you think, is it worth a try?”

As she spoke, an overwhelming sense of rightness flooded through Yugi's friends. This was it, the perfect solution. The doctor left to let them think after mentioning that they could go in to Yugi now. The moment she was out of earshot, Joey said “I think it's clear where we're going to take him, right? It's so obvious, I can't believe I didn't think of it!”

I don't know about you guys, but I don't really have the money to fly to Egypt just like that.”, Téa muttered. At that, Seto almost cracked a smile. “Don't worry about that. We're taking my jet. As soon as he's allowed to leave the hospital, we're all leaving together.”

“What if he doesn't want to?”, Solomon asked worriedly. “Or it doesn't help?”, Tristan added.

Joey had the answers to their questions immediately. “Well, we'll have to persuade him, won't we? And it can hardly be worse than doing nothing.”


Shortly after that, they were all in Yugi's hospital room for the second time in as many days.

“So what do you think, Yugi? Would you like to go somewhere for a while?”, Téa asked when she felt it was the right moment.

“Go somewhere? Like a vacation?”, he asked. She nodded, trying not to notice the paleness of his skin.

“We can go anywhere you want. I'm providing the jet. Heaven only knows I need some peace and quiet at a beach for a while.”, Kaiba chimed in.

Yugi seemed to think about it for a minute. Then his face seemed to light up “Can we go to Egypt?”, he asked in that excited voice they'd all missed so much. Tristan and Joey exchanged a meaningful look. Téa smiled at him. “Sure we can. The day your doctor gives her okay, we're leaving. How does that sound to you?”

“Awesome! I'll have to make sure I get better real fast!”

Solomon gave him a tired smile, “You know that means to do as the doctor says, right?”

“Yeah, of course.”, Yugi replied instantly, nodding enthusiastically.

 

Ten days later, Yugi looked much better. He was still pale, but the new scars on his wrist were healing and he had gained some weight. Nurses fawned over him all the time – not that he really noticed, but his friends did and they found it hilarious. Finally, the doctor told him he could leave the hospital, under strict orders to eat healthily and not overexert himself.

As soon as he got home, he started packing a few things to take with him. He had no idea what made him so giddy and excited about going to Egypt, but he assumed that it couldn't do any harm.

Egypt, of all the places to return to...

If the trip really didn't do him any good, Seto had told him, they could still visit the pyramids or something like that and then go straight back home. “I don't like that you're all so worried about me. You can stop it, I'm fine.”, Yugi had answered.

In return, Seto had only said, “You brought it on yourself. People will worry about you and if you don't like it, then maybe you should have thought about what consequences your actions have before.”

“Right. I'm sorry, for all that it's worth.”, the smaller one had said quietly, not really knowing where to look and uncomfortably settling on his hands.

The brunet had only sighed. “It's okay. Just get better.” He'd left just a short time later.

Now he was back in his room at home and couldn't decide whether to be happy or sad that his grandpa had too much to do in the game shop to go with them. As he threw another shirt into his suitcase, he realized he was alone with his thoughts for pretty much the first time since going to hospital. There had always been someone around in the past days, and the realization hit him that his friends were scared to leave him alone. They seemed absolutely convinced that he'd do something to himself if left alone for longer than half an hour.

What have I done? Another thing he didn't know. He knew nothing, it seemed.

No, I don't know nothing. I know that I need to get better and move on. That's the right thing to do...right?

 

“May I have your attention. Please put on your seat belts. We will be landing in Cairo, Egypt in about half an hour. The local time is ten thirty in the morning and the weather is warm and sunny. Thank you for flying with us, and have a nice stay!”, a woman's voice said over the intercom. Kaiba rolled his eyes, muttering “I told her not to do that. We know where we're going to land.”

The over nine-thousand kilometre distance from Domino City to the capital of Egypt had been boring and the silence kind of tense. Yugi could hardly wait to get out of the plane. His legs were stiff and he really wanted to get moving.

After taking a trip to the bathroom to wash his face, he sat down and put on his seat belt. Twenty minutes (that felt like a lifetime) later, he felt the strange tug in his stomach that meant they had landed. The feeling was weird and uncomfortable, but he ignored it as best as he could, took off his seat belt and practically leaped out of his seat as soon as he was allowed to.

There was something he had to do, and he would know what it was when he was out of this godforsaken plane, he was absolutely sure. If not, he was going to get out of this plane, spend some time in Egypt, realize it did little good, go back to Japan, get over it, forget Atem, live his life. Yugi would finish high school and go to university and get a job, help his grandpa in the shop and move on and learn to be happy again. He was determined not to make his friends worry again.

 

In the airport, a familiar, Egyptian woman was waiting for the group.

“Ishizu!”, Yugi yelled as soon as he recognized her. “I was going to contact you anyway and now I don't need to! That's great! What are you doing here?”

“You were?”, Joey asked, confused. None of them had spoken to Ishizu a very long time, and Yugi had certainly not mentioned her. At the moment, though, he was nodding enthusiastically. “I was. I just didn't know yet, but now I do.”

“You do?”, Téa inquired with a worried look on her face. Yugi sighed in exasperation. “Stop looking at me like that. I'm not crazy.”

“Sure you aren't.”, said Tristan drily.

Ishizu decided to speak up before the teenagers started to fight. “Why were you planning to contact me? Is there anything you need? I came here today because I felt that I really should, and it looks like my feeling was right. Why didn't you call me? What's going on and why are you even here?”

“I'm here because I need to go to the door.” At her confused expression, he elaborated “The place where the ceremonial duel was...remember? I have to go there quickly.”

“The place you duelled the Pharaoh? What business do you have there?”, she asked, dumbfounded.

“I don't know. Just...please...can you take me there? Or tell me how to get there? I'll know the answers to your questions then, I'm positive.”, at his pleading look, she relented. She was a sucker for this boy's pout.

“Yugi, I can't imagine what could be urging you to go there, or why, but I'll take you. I think this is why I felt the pull to come here today – because you needed my help. Will your friends accompany you?”

“Will...what?”, only now did Yugi seem to remember that Joey, Téa, Tristan and Seto were looking at him like he'd gone absolutely mental. “Right. Guys...do you mind if I go with Ishizu alone?”

“Are you sure? Yugi, I don't think it's a good idea for you to go there. Won't it, like, stir up memories you'd rather forget?”, Téa asked, concerned.

He shook his head, “No, I mean, yes...I...I'm sure I want to go. I need to. Just trust me please.”

“If he's so sure then he can go. Let's wait for him in the hotel, I'm dead tired anyway. Couldn't sleep on that plane.”, Joey said, earning a grateful smile from Yugi.

“Well, I guess you're right. We'll see you later then, Yugi?”, Tristan asked uncertainly. Yugi just nodded again with a distracted expression on his face.

Ishizu promised to bring Yugi back safely and, after Seto gave her the name of the hotel and Yugi the key to his hotel room, they left. The duellist was very edgy and could hardly sit still for the whole car ride, but Ishizu managed to keep her calm demeanour through her confusion. She still couldn't imagine what on earth Yugi could have to do there.

They'd almost reached their destination when she finally spoke. “Yugi, what do you expect to see when we get there? You know he's long gone, right?”

He flinched at her words, but then shrugged weakly. “I really don't know, Ishizu. I can't believe I'm even here. I … I feel like I need to go there just this once and...I haven't really thought about what comes afterwards. But I've done nothing long enough, and even if it doesn't make me feel better at all, at least it means I tried. You know what I mean?”

She nodded, and halted the car at a traffic light that seemed out of place in this calm area.

He managed not to flinch this time as she looked at him and asked, “You love him, is that right?” Making it sound as if Atem was just on a quick business trip and would be back in a few days...

He didn't answer, but his expression seemed to be enough for her, as she nodded again and turned her eyes back to the road, sighing. “I wondered, after you duelled, you know? But knowing it wouldn't change anything, so I pushed the thought away. And it was true all the time. It's why you look so horrible, isn't it? Like you haven't slept or eaten in weeks.” Yugi cast his eyes downwards, somehow feeling ashamed of his own weakness. The tomb-keeper didn't seem to notice as she went on. “Do you not wonder what he'd say if he knew how you have been handling his absence? You knew him better than I, so please tell me, what would he say if he saw you now?”

“Ishizu...”, he started to say, but she cut him off.

“Forget it. We're here.”

Chapter Text

“Ishizu, I've thought about it, really, it's just that-”, Yugi tried again, only to be cut off once again.
“I know.” She got out of the car and slammed the door shut, waiting for him to follow her. When he was out of the car, too, she locked it and turned to him, asking, “Yugi, are you really sure you want to go down there? It's okay if you change your mind, I promise. I'll just take you to the hotel.”

However, Yugi was shaking his head before she had even finished talking. “I really appreciate your concern, but I'm not going to go back now, and please don't ask what I expect to find down there, because I don't even really know why I wanted to come to Egypt in the first place. But it'll make sense, I'm sure.”

The woman sighed, deciding to go along with it for the moment. “Fine. Lead the way, I'm sure you remember it.”

Indeed, he did still remember. They walked for a few minutes, until they reached the hauntingly familiar stone stairwell. It might have only been his second time to actually be here, but in his dreams he'd been to this place uncountable times. His subconscious had somehow tried to find a way or scenario in which Atem could have stayed with him, though those attempts had mostly failed and ended in nightmares.

Trying not to alert Ishizu to his sudden nervousness, he started to climb down the stairs. The deeper they got, the cooler the air became, and he welcomed the shade and light breeze, happy to let it cool his overheated skin a little. He liked warm weather, but at the moment the heat was almost too much.

Almost halfway down, he had the strangest urge to rush, so he broke into a run and dashed down. Ishizu kept walking on her own pace, wanting to give him a little space.

When he stepped from the last stair, he walked a few steps into the commodious room and looked around. It looked exactly the same as he remembered; dark, cold and somehow abrasive. He also felt the uncomfortable sensation of being watched, which was kind of irrational...

 

“Finally.”, a female voice suddenly said out of nowhere, startling him out of his thoughts. It was definitely not Ishizu's – it wasn't even coming from the right direction to be Ishizu. Still, the soft tone seemed familiar in a way. Yugi turned around, but could see nobody who could have said it. The room was empty. “Who's there? Show yourself!”

“We're doing you a great favor here, Yugi, so you could at least be a bit more patient and respectful.”, it was a male voice this time, and it seemed to come from the ceiling. Yugi frowned in confusion.

Before he could react though, the woman piped up again. “Oh don't be such a douche, Anubis, the boy is confused enough. He doesn't even know that we made him come here.”

Yugi was astonished. “What are you talking about? Who are you anyway? Where are you? To make things clear, nobody made me come here, I wanted to.”, he yelled defiantly. His words resounded off the walls, and he almost shivered at the creepy sounds.

Now a different man's voice spoke; a man who sounded really arrogant. “Ah, you might think that you came here of your own accord, but it is actually we who called you here. You see-”

“Oh be quiet. I will be the one to explain, you boys talk too much nonsense.”, this time, it was the woman again, the one who'd said 'Finally.'

What's it with women cutting off people who are trying to explain something!? Yugi thought, starting to get annoyed. In that instant, Ishizu appeared right beside him and he stared at her face, wanting to know if she could hear what he was hearing. Maybe she couldn't, which would mean that he'd finally gone mental – and that really wouldn't have surprised him much. Her astounded expression told him that yes, indeed, she could hear the voices.

Well, maybe she was mental, too.

“See, Yugi,”, the female voice continued from above, “My name is Isis, and I'm a goddess. With me are Osiris, Thoth and Anubis. I'm sure you have heard of all of us, perhaps in history classes at school? You can't see us because you're not dead, but you can hear us – for the moment – because I made it so. Listen carefully. Two years ago, we somehow made a mistake, and are now putting said mistake right again. This is where you come in. Our mistake was to let the Pharaoh Atem cross over even though he was never with you – his actual soulmate. A grave mistake of ours. Now we have decided to send him back to you.”

“What are you...this can't be...is this some kind of a practical joke? Or am I finally going insane? Ishizu...please tell me you're hearing the same things.”, Yugi stuttered.

“I think I am.”, she replied, her face unusually pale and her voice lighter that air.

“You can believe us, Yugi. We're sending Atem back to you...with a few catches. First, we banished all Millennium Items from existence. We don't want them in anyone's hands, so those nasty things are now gone forever. That means he doesn't have any powers like being able to send people to the shadow realm. Also, he is not allowed to end his life himself, it'll end when we see fit, which will not be for another while – for either of you. Is that clear?”

“I-I think it is...”, Yugi stammered. He felt dizzy. This just had to be another one of those weird dreams. He just hoped it wouldn't become a nightmare like his crazy dreams often did. Play along, surely you'll wake up soon and all will be normal again.

As he thought that, one of the male voices – Anubis? Thoth? – started talking again. “I can tell what you're thinking. This is no dream. You now have the honor of being accompanied by a Pharaoh for the rest of your life. I'm sorry for us making you be so sure about having to come here without giving you an actual reason – I know it was very strange.”

“Stop babbling and do what I asked you to.”, the goddess said impatiently.

Someone huffed, and then everything – the walls, floor and ceiling – started to glow in a blindingly bright light. Yugi and Ishizu instinctively closed their eyes, but they could still feel the warmth that seemed to radiate from the light. It got brighter and brighter, and they 'saw' orange on the insides of their eyelids. It stayed bright for a few seconds, then there was a flash and the light started to fade very slowly.

As the duellist got ready to open his eyes as soon as the light dulled enough, he heard a new voice, one he had only heard in dreams and memories for the last years. It was gasping for air, saying, “Oh my... is this for real? I mean, is this actually happening? Hey, what are you- aah!”
There was a thud, an “Ow!”, and Yugi opened his eyes, not even caring to shield them against the still-bright light. He could make out a familiar figure that was getting up from the floor a few feet away from him, obviously waiting for the light to dull so they could move freely without falling over. Yugi's eyes adjusted steadily, and the details around him started to make more sense to him. Or, they should have made sense, but what he saw was entirely impossible.

Wrong.

Not doable.

And yet true. He heard Ishizu gasp, and knew she'd opened her eyes.

Could it really be?

The light was now almost back to normal.

Aa-hah? Yugi?”, the voice shook.

In an instant, he'd crossed over and thrown his arms around Atem's neck – because it was indeed him, standing there, looking tan and beautiful and just slightly taller than himself and perfect in every way. He looked up into those eyes he had missed so much, and saw the same love and happiness that he felt reflected in them.
“Is it really you?”, Yugi whispered, terrified now. “Fuck, this is another dream, isn't it? Oh, this is gonna be bad when I wake up! Damn it all to fucking hell, I-”

“What was that? Will you please tell me since when you swear like that?”, Atem asked, his shocked expression somehow off-putting. His usual dream-self never cared when Yugi swore.

“This is a weird dream.”, he muttered.

“Will someone tell him that he is not dreaming? This isn't quite what I expected from my big romantic reunion. I demand a refund!”, Atem said exasperatedly, as if he was sure the gods were still listening in – or watching.

Strange. Dream-Atem usually gave up trying to make him believe he wasn't dreaming very fast. And he usually didn't smell so good. He inhaled the sweet, almost dizzying scent.

“I should have expected this. You've gone crazy without me, haven't you?”, he asked. “Too much exposure to Joey.”

Yugi huffed, half-angry and half-amused. “I might be crazy, but you're still one of the weirdest dreams I've ever had. If you would move on to the usual dream topics now, I would be very thankful.”

Atem laughed, tightening his arms around Yugi's waist. It felt unbelievably good. “You've changed. Tell me, what's a thing your dream-versions of me would never do?”, he wondered. He watched Yugi's expression grow thoughtful, hoping to convince him soon.

“You'd never comment on my swearing, for one. You'd also never talk this much. And you usually don't look so strange...”, Yugi trailed off, confused. This felt so much like a dream, and yet...

He couldn't finish the thought though, because Atem pressed his lips softy to Yugi's. Later, they could never remember how long that kiss lasted...it could have been minutes or hours, but it was probably just a short moment. Yugi soon found his hands in Atem's hair, tugging lightly at the silky strands and revelling in the euphoric feelings.
Now you're following dream protocol.”, he whispered against his Yami's lips, keeping his eyes closed. He was terrified of when the time would come that he'd have to wake. Every time this happened, he woke thinking that his dream had been real, and then he would try to stop his tears from flowing and fail.

“Hmm, I thought this would convince you that I'm real. Tell me, why do you-”, the Pharaoh started, but was cut off by Ishizu – when had she gotten here, anyway? – clearing her throat.

“Well, this is all very cute and everything...but will you please explain to me what on earth is happening?”, she asked. She knew Yugi loved Atem, but...

The two boys turned their heads to her as she spoke, blushing but keeping their arms around each other. “Didn't you hear the gods explain it? I get to be with Yugi now.”, Atem explained as if it was the most natural thing in the world, “And as for why I'm kissing him.”, he looked at Yugi, who blushed deeper. “Have you ever tried it? I can only say delicious.

“Wait...Ishizu? So this is real!”, Yugi shrieked.

“I've been trying to tell you that for quite a while, love.”

“You're real!”, he yelled again.

Atem rolled his eyes. “That I am...we can talk about this later, Yugi, I think Ishizu might fall over any second though.”

The tomb keeper indeed looked like she would faint any second now, and they let go of each other and rushed to her. Yugi caught her arm just as she seemed to be trying to stop herself from falling over. “Are you okay? Should we get back to the car?”, he asked worriedly.

She just nodded slowly, “Yes...the car. I need my phone.”

For one last time, Isis' voice rang out through the chamber, “Have fun, boys. See you in a few decades.” Then, Yugi could no longer feel the presence of people watching him as he had minutes before.

Atem and Yugi ended up waiting outside of the car while Ishizu sat in the driver's seat and phoned Téa to tell her what had happened. Luckily, she hadn't fallen asleep yet and promised to wake everyone and get them together. “Should I call Yugi's grandfather?”, she asked before Ishizu could hang up.

Ishizu hesitated to answer. “I'm not sure...no. Not yet. We need to figure out what this is supposed to mean. Did you know of this? That they...”, she trailed off, too shocked to put what she'd seen into words yet.

“That Yugi and Atem are in love? I thought you of all people would have seen it. It's been obvious to me before Yugi realized it. Don't worry so much, I think this is going to work out. I mean, the gods themselves willed this, didn't they?”

“Right. Okay, I'll just drive them to the hotel and we'll tell you guys the details. Meet me in the lobby, okay?”

“Sure. See you.”

“Bye.”

While Ishizu tried her best to concentrate on the road, Yugi almost sat on Atem's lap in the back of the car. It was disconcerting to say the least, to have someone in her back seat that she had believed to be dead for years now. While she pondered, the couple talked quietly and she tried not to listen in too much, as this seemed to be a private moment.

 

As the two of them stared at each other, completely mesmerized by how amazing it felt to be together again, Yugi's mind kept coming up with new questions. As always, the Pharaoh knew perfectly how to read his expression: open and honest, loving and very confused as he took in Atem's changed appearance. He still looked like Atem to Yugi, but he knew that this wasn't the man that used to appear whenever the spirit of the once-dead Pharaoh took over the control of Yugi's body.

Everything about him was darker, his skin marvellously caramel-coloured and his eyes and hair several shades darker, as well. Something about his facial features seemed different, too, but maybe that was just because he'd never smiled so much before.

“I know you want some more explanations now, but I think we should wait until we get to the others so I don't tell everything twice, is that okay?”, Atem asked quietly, trying hard to refrain himself from pulling Yugi onto his lap.

“Sure. I...I can't believe it's really you. Well I can because you're here and I can touch you but...how and why? And why do you look different? I mean you still look like you, but not like me any more... that doesn't even make sense!”, Atem smiled at the rush of questions. Maybe Yugi hadn't changed that much.

“It's a bit difficult to explain. You see, you only knew me while you had to share your body with me, right?”, at Yugi's nod, he continued. “But what you saw then, wasn't my actual visual nature. I only looked like you so much because we shared a body. Even when Bakura played his last big game with us, I wasn't completely me. This is what I used to look like when I was still an actual Pharaoh. Does it bother you?”

Yugi shook his head quickly, smiling. “Not at all. At least we don't look like brothers any more. That would just be strange.”

 

When they finally arrived at the hotel, Téa was already waiting for them as she'd said she would, anxious to see what she'd heard with her own eyes. Her eyes seemed to get three times bigger when she saw Yugi and Atem walking hand in hand like they'd never let go of each other again.

“Wow. Just. Wow. I think I didn't realize...it's really you! I missed you!”, she yelled, fighting the happy tears and throwing her arms around him. Of course she would know it was him, even if he looked a bit different. “The others are going to freak!”

Atem hugged her back and said, “I hope you mean that in a good way.”

“Of course! Come on, we're talking in my room. Everyone's there. They didn't believe me!”

“I would have been surprised and a little worried if they did.”, Ishizu said dryly. Yugi and Atem were glad to see that the colour had returned to her face.

Téa chuckled. “I'm not even sure this is the weirdest thing that's ever happened in our lives.”

They followed Téa trough a few corridors and some stories up with an elevator until they reached the door. It was immediately clear to Atem that Kaiba must have chosen the hotel. Only he would pick something so redundantly extravagant, but the Pharaoh liked it – he was used to luxury as the king of Egypt.

Téa opened the door with her key card and the four of them walked in, meeting their shocked and happy friends. After all of them had gotten their excited yells and exclamations out of the way, Atem, Yugi and Ishizu finally started to explain what had occurred. They really would not have believed a word, had Atem not been sitting right there in front of them, alive and well and, just like Yugi, practically glowing with happiness. Each had pretty much the same topic in their minds as they listened and, more importantly watched.

I'd forgotten how chirpy and excited that kid can be. Kaiba thought, watching Yugi describe the sudden bright light using not just words, but also his hands.

Yugi looks almost like the past two years never existed. Téa pondered, not quite trusting the situation yet. She took in Yugi's still apparent weight loss. Almost. Did Atem realize how his absence had affected Yugi? It didn't seem like it. So what would he do when he found out?

I'm so damn glad to see Yugi so happy. I guess it's okay that he's in love with Atem after all. Joey was excitedly watching his friend, already imagining how cheerful life was going to be in the future. The thought made him smile.

This is just amazing. I can hardly believe I used to think this would be wrong. Something that makes him smile like that could never ever be wrong. Tristan actually grinned at his revelation. Yes, the time ahead of them would be far more cheerful than he could have imagined. The thought made him giddy with excitement. Maybe they'd get to watch the two of them have another battle, but this time a more friendly one.

“And then he was just there. And Ishizu almost fainted!”, Yugi concluded, waving his hands to indicate Atem – who was now laughing at Yugi's tone – standing in front of him.

“Atem, what about you? Where you somewhere first...and then suddenly not any more? And then you were with Yugi?”, Joey asked a bit confused.

Atem pondered this for a moment before answering. “Not exactly. At first I was in”, he looked like someone was cutting off his air for a second, then he gasped and said “… a place I'm apparently not allowed to tell you anything about. You can say heaven, I suppose. Or the afterlife, as the Book of the Dead calls it. Then Osiris – who looks really scary but as actually quite nice, by the way – was there and he explained to me, well, basically what Yugi just told you. And he asked me if I wanted to have another chance at a human life and I said yes. Then it was all black, I fell over, got up and next your arms were around me.”, he finished, smiling at Yugi fondly now.

“Aawww! That's so sweet!”, Téa squealed, making both blush an adorable shade of pink.

Soon, it was decided that someone had to call Yugi's grandpa and explain things to him, but for now the friends just sat there together to talk and catch up. They ordered food via room service and turned on the TV under the pretence of watching a film, but really spent the next few hours talking, catching up and trying to believe what they were seeing.

Unsurprisingly, Kaiba got bored after only a short while, and he left to lie by the pool. When the door closed behind him, the weird tension that always seemed to perpetuate the air around him abated, and the rest of the day was spent concentrating on easy, light topics like card games and school. It became apparent that something – probably the gods – was preventing Atem from disclosing any details about the afterlife, but the gang could deal with that.

The longer they sat there, the more Atem noticed about Yugi, though, and everyone else could see how his eyebrows drew together in confusion and worry as he watched his friends. He was observing the changes in their group dynamic – how everything seemed to gravitate slightly around Yugi. How, when he stood up, three pairs of eyes followed him, as if to check whether he was going to faint. How they watched him eat... And Yugi seemed to not notice it, or maybe he was ignoring it.

More time passed, and sleeping arrangements were made – Atem and Yugi were going to share Yugi's room until Kaiba's people had sorted him out a passport, ID and generally created a virtual identity for him. Apparently he was moving to Japan with them, no questions asked.

 

When the sun started to set over Cairo, Atem and Yugi were alone in their room. Atem had pushed the worrying things out of his mind when Yugi pressed him against the door and began to kiss him as if – well, as if he hadn't seen him in two years. A lot had changed, yes, but Yugi still did everything with passion, and that was no different in intimate activities, or so it seemed.

“I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.”, he said against Atem's lips breathlessly, letting his hands slip under his shirt.

“Doesn't quite feel like it.”, Atem gasped as Yugi drew his fingernails over hot skin. The Pharaoh put his hands on Yugi's hips, tugging at the shirt he was wearing. “May I?”, he asked.

Yugi nodded, and in one swift motion, he'd pulled off the shirt and thrown it somewhere behind him. Before Yugi could do more than let out a staggeringly cute sound of surprise, he'd taken his wrists and secured them on both sides of Yugi's head.

“What's that?”, he demanded, nodding towards the clean white bandage that covered half of Yugi's left arm.

The boy's blood immediately ran cold. “Nothing, just a scratch.”, he said quickly.

Atem raised an eyebrow.

“Just...later, please? I can't do that conversation yet. I know you have questions, but. Please.”, he looked up at Atem with shining eyes, and he relented. Yugi could see his resolve shatter in his eyes. He took the opportunity and freed one arm from Atem's now-faint grasp, putting a hand on the back of Atem's neck and kissing him again. “Thanks.”, he whispered, almost letting their lips move together with the word.

He would have to be honest sooner or later, but now he just wanted to feel.

And feel he did, because Atem went back to caressing and kissing him with so much fervour, he felt like he was being burned with every touch. His hands trailed down Yugi's body, caressing it everywhere while he kissed and nipped and sucked at his neck, leaving pink marks all over it. “Please.”, Yugi managed to get out, gasping for air. Incredible emotions were running through his body, making him crave more and more of Atem's addictive touch.

“Please what? Tell me what you want, my little light. I want to hear it.”, the Pharaoh breathed into the boy's ear. Yugi shivered at the sensation. He hadn't ever felt this way before, but he knew he wanted – no, needed Atem to...to what? How could he say what he wanted Atem to do, when he didn't know himself? The pictures his mind was suddenly conjuring up were making him blush a deep red, and he had no idea what to say – let alone do.

Noticing Yugi's hesitation and nervousness, Atem couldn't help but smile at the younger one's innocence.

Sure, Yugi had become an excellent, strong and independent duellist in the past few years, but about things like this, he was still a shy little virgin. Atem loved him to pieces. Wanting to ease some of Yugi's nervousness, he begun trailing feather-light kisses down Yugi's chest, and when he reached the waistband of his pants, swiftly started to remove the rest of his clothes.

Just mere seconds later, both had shed the rest of their – now extremely unwanted – clothing and were staring at one another, each mesmerized at the beauty before him. By that time, Atem was pretty much convinced that the lovely red colour was never going to leave his little light's cheeks.

He did not mind at all.

When Yugi pulled him into another kiss, a thought struck him. “Yugi...love, if this is going too fast for you, that's fine. We can stop if you like.”, he said carefully.

Stop? Why would Atem consider stopping? Yugi considered it for half a second, but the mere thought of not touching his Yami seemed repulsive at best. He was put at ease almost immediately and shook his head. Yes, he wanted this; even if knowing he was able to stop any time calmed his nerves. Finally finding his voice, he softly said “No. I don't want to stop. After having to be without you for so long, I can't stand to be separated from you any longer. Please Atem, I'm tired of waiting.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes”, came Yugi's immediate answer. Atem knew he shouldn't really be surprised. “I love you and I trust you. And I'm one hundred percent sure about this.”

No more words were needed. Atem captured Yugi's lips in a searing kiss, eliciting a moan from him. The younger one tangled his hands in Atem's hair, pulling him as close as he could. The setting sun had bathed the entire room in an orange light, and everything seemed to glow in it. They found a little bottle of massage oil in a drawer, and only minutes later they were a tangled heap on the bed.

Atem was delighted in hearing the delicious sounds that escaped Yugi's lips every time he moved his hand a little, each time he crooked a finger just so.

“Tell me how amazing that feels, baby.”, he whispered into Yugi's ear, still working his fingers inside the whimpering boy. A curious voice in his head wondered at how the endearments were slipping from his mouth, as if he'd said them a million times before.

“So...wonderful. Oh please, Atem, I want you...need you right now.”, the younger one begged.

Atem pulled out his fingers, made a huge mess on both of them with the rest of the massage oil that put them both into a fit of giggles, kissed Yugi right over his heart and finally put his dick to good use. The pain from before was now long forgotten, a faraway dream in this blissful reality.

“Oh gods in the skies...you feel so amazing. So...perfect. I love you so much.”, Atem mumbled incoherently, not caring even slightly that he sounded utterly ridiculous.

Then Atem started to move, and Yugi was sure he had died and gone up to heaven. Surely, this kind of pleasure could never exist in such a place as the earth, in a pretty hotel room in Cairo? Maybe their plane had crashed on the way to Egypt and he'd died without noticing. But what had he done to deserve such a sweet afterlife?

As Atem picked up the pace, he decided that he didn't care, at least for the moment, because, frankly, what did it matter? It didn't, not at all. What mattered right now were only these incomparable feelings. Atem's thrusts gained in speed quickly as they neared their releases, and he wrapped a hand around Yugi's length, pumping in time with his thrusts. Not to be outdone, Yugi put a hand on his shoulder and pushed, switching their positions so that he was on top.

The picture he made like that was on the best path to driving Atem insane. All triumphant at reducing him to this mess, sweaty and flushed and excited – it was all he could do to control himself enough not to hurt him by being too rough. But when his hips jerked and Yugi hissed and started to ride him, as if he'd been planning this exact move for hours, he knew he could let go and spiral down into madness right along with Yugi.

 

“Heavens”, Atem gasped shakily as they lay curled up together on the bed afterwards. “Remind me again why we waited so long to do this?”

Yugi put his head on the former Pharaohs chest, snuggling close. “Because you were already in my body, it wouldn't really have worked.”, Yugi replied matter-of-factly, and at the stupid statement, both of them burst out laughing again.

“Did I ever tell you that I love you?”, Atem asked after catching his breath.

“You might have mentioned it once or twice, but I certainly don't mind hearing it again. I love you too. I'll never love anyone but you.”

 

The sunlight tickled Atem's cheek the next morning, waking him just like it always had, as if it was just another normal day in the Pharaohs life after death.

Except that it isn't. He realized as the previous day – and night – came rushing back to him. His eyes flew open, and the first thing he saw was so beautiful that he had to catch his breath for a moment: Yugi was curled up at his side, fast asleep and looking as cute and innocent as a kitten.

Seriously, how can anyone look so innocent when they'd had sex the very night before?

After watching him sleep for a while, he decided to get up and take a shower. When he was done, he noticed that he was absolutely ravenous. However, Yugi was still fast asleep. The Pharaoh left the room quietly, careful not to make any noise. He didn't know what had left Yugi's body in such a thin, pale state yet, but he knew Yugi should rest as much as possible.

Very few people were in the hotel restaurant, so he was able to spot Seto, Téa, Joey and Tristan fairly quickly. Tristan waved him over to where they were all sitting. None of them, except Joey, seemed to have touched their food.

“Morning everyone.”, he said a bit tentatively as he sat down.

His friends practically chorused, “Good morning”, sounding eerily like a class greeting their teacher.

“Where's Yugi?”, Téa asked.

“Still sleeping”, he replied apprehensively.

Why was everyone acting so strange?

Hm. Maybe they thought everything was weird, now that it all had sunk in – it wasn't every day that someone came back from the dead and declared his undying love for your friend – but still. Stranger things had happened to these people. He felt as if there was some big, bad secret everyone – including Yugi – was keeping from him.

And he did not like it at all.

“Can you guys please tell me what's going on here? There's something you're not telling me. And what's with the bandage on Yugi's wrist? He's not telling me how it got there and he looks like he should be in hospital. And why are you looking at me like that?”, he tried to keep his voice even as he asked “Did you...didn't you guys want me to come back?”

Téa shook her head. “That's not what this is about, Atem. You can't imagine how glad we all are that you're back. But I am surprised Yugi didn't tell you what that bandage hides...especially...”

“Especially seeing as it's your fault it's there in the first place.”, Seto finished for her.

Atem's head snapped up, and he fiercely glared at him. His voice ice cold, he demanded, “What are you talking about?”

Seto's face seemed set in stone, the usual smirk at hurting the Pharaoh (or anyone, for that matter) completely absent from his expression. “How do you think he felt after you left?”, he asked.

“Sad, probably? We weren't just best friends, I was the voice in his head for years. But it's been a long time!” No, no, no no no. They couldn't be saying that... “He should have moved on! I was sure he would...”, he trailed off slowly, heart constricting with guilt at how obviously wrong he had been.

“So did we, man.”, Joey told him sadly. “We all did. We all waited, and mostly watched.”, he said bitterly, looking down at his hands as if they were the source of all evil. And really, how was anyone supposed to know what to do in the insane situation they'd been? Usually, when people heard voices in their head, it was a good thing when they stopped. But Atem's voice had been real, and Yugi had fallen in love with it. And no matter the finer details, it had been him who banished the voice from his life.

An uncomfortable silence followed, and persisted until Atem tentatively asked, “He's been depressed? Since I left? Has he been happy at all?”

Téa sighed. “There were times when he was almost fine. Sometimes he even seemed to resolve to forget and move on - “, the Pharaoh felt a painful pang then, even though that was what he had wanted, “but something always ended up reminding him. I think what he hated most wasn't just that you were gone, but that he felt like he was the reason you left. Because he battled you and won. It isn't true, but I do think that's how he felt.” She leaned back and closed her eyes. Talking about all of this was incredibly painful, and she wished it was all behind them already.

Noticing her distress, Tristan took over.

“About two weeks ago, he overdid it. He's been replacing mental with physical pain for god knows how long, and nothing seemed to stop him except enough schoolwork. But then the holidays started, and he overdid it and almost bled out on the bathroom floor. We broke the door down,” he nodded to Joey, indicating that they had done that together, “and took him to the hospital. There, according to what you told us yesterday, Isis made us believe we wanted to go to Egypt.”, he shook his head, still astonished at that.

Seeing Atem's devastated expression, Téa hurried to say, “Look, it is not your fault. There is no reason for anyone to think it is.”

His expression didn't change, and she huffed in frustration.

“Suppose you'd beaten him in the ceremonial duel, suppose you were still in his head. What then? He'd be living with a voice in his head for the rest of his life? That doesn't really sound like a healthy relationship to me. In fact, it's not a relationship at all! It would always have been better for both of you if you left. You idiot, listen to me! None of us were expecting this..., this gift that your gods have given us. I think we should start enjoying it, okay? And I'm not saying you should ignore everything that happened in the past few years, you definitely shouldn't. But when you talk about it, do it without hurting him or I swear to god, I will send you right back to where you've come from.”

The menacing look on the sweet girl's face was enough for anyone, and finally everyone cracked a smile. Joey, Tristan, Seto, and by extension Atem agreed with her. Now if only Atem knew how to broach the topic without Yugi pulling away again...

 

When Yugi woke, he rolled over on the bed and buried his nose in the pillows, inhaling a delicious scent that he wasn't used to. It was light out way too early, he thought. He felt as if he was missing something huge, and it just wasn't coming to him what.

Sitting up, he waited until the dizziness abated and looked around the room. It was the same hotel room he'd fallen asleep in the night before, enveloped in sweet warmth and happiness, snuggled close to...

“Holy fuck!”, the young duellist yelped, leaping from the bed and barely avoiding crashing into the bedside table. He looked down at his body, stained with the remnants of the previous night.

Even though nobody was in the room, he flushed a bright red immediately.

Right.

Shower time, apparently.

When he finished, he made sure he looked perfectly respectable – he did not need his friends to know what he'd been up to with Atem. They'd just think he needed to talk about it, even though they'd have no idea on how to go about it and... just no.

 

Finding the hotel's restaurant was easy enough, as every sign on the wall was written in both Arabic and English (Egypt was fascinating, but there was no way he'd learn Arabic. Two different alphabets were more than enough, but English came easy to him.). There, everyone was sitting together and eating, and seeing Atem again made something jump in his chest. It came to him that he hadn't fully believed that he hadn't dreamed the miraculous return of the Pharaoh, but now that he could see him, his heart seemed just about ready to jump out of his chest.

Smiling to himself, he took a steadying breath and walked over to the table. Thankfully, his friends were pretty deep in conversation. As it were, they didn't notice him until he wrapped his arms around Atem's shoulders from behind and kissed his cheek.

“Good morning, Pharaoh.”, he whispered into his ear, then, more loudly, said “Good morning, guys. How did everyone sleep?” He took a seat and started to pile his plate high with the unfamiliar food on the table. For some reason, he really wanted to try out every single thing.

“I see you've finally found your way out of bed, sleepyhead.”, Atem said, beaming.

Tristan grinned right along. “Seriously, dude. You're like sleeping beauty.”

“You slept longer than anyone. We're all basically finished with breakfast. Now we get to wait for you to eat.”, Joey added, just to watch Yugi smile and blush.

“Then go.”, he snapped playfully, “Not you, though.”, he hurried to tell Atem, poking him on the arm for emphasizing. “You're staying. How dare you let me wake up alone! I could've missed breakfast, or worse, an important discussion. Are we discussing any plans yet?”

“What kind of plans? I thought the subjective of this vacation was making Yugi happy. Are we taking over Egypt or something?”, Atem asked curiously.

Seto snorted. “You may think this is funny, but Egypt is already under my command. I think what he means is what we're doing, now that we're one, um, more person.”, he said, slyly raising his eyebrow at Atem, who grinned.

“Right. Are we going back now or staying for a bit?”, Yugi confirmed.

“I don't know about you kids, but I'm going to lie by the pool for the next ten days. You can ask the pilot to take you back home at any time, though. Téa has his number.”, with that, he stood up and left, presumably to go change into more poolside-suitable attire.

“I don't care either way what we're doing”, Yugi declared, “but I like the food and the weather so far.”

“I like the hotel room. It rocks, man.”, Joey said.
Tristan immediately agreed, and Téa was happy to take a look at the bazaar with Ishizu. And no matter how weird it was that Seto was now something like a strange, former-enemy-turned-friend that hovered around them like an awkward shadow, it was apparent that they were staying in Egypt for a while.