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To Hear from You Again

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Ryou woke up in the mid-morning with a full plan to spend the day preparing for that evening. It would be another big night. He wasn't nervous per-say, though he knew it would be the best idea to remain unconscious while Atem piloted his body - this wasn't like with the Thief King, after all - Ryou was just excited about the night. Some part of him looked forward to showing off his skills as a medium. It was the same part that was thrilled to learn he still had some small control of magic even after the Spirit of the Ring no longer possessed him. Another part of him wanted to ease Yugi's pain. He wanted to ease Kaiba's pain as well, by extension, despite the man being so cold to everyone else after everything. Kaiba made Yugi happy though, and so Ryou chose to look past his words with the guarded edges and see his actions.

Ryou knew what he would need for that night before he had breakfast finished. The materials list was nearly ingrained in his mind from repetition at this point. The thought never occurred that maybe he gambled his body with the Thief King too often. Ryou trusted him wholeheartedly, especially now that the Spirit of the Ring was seperate from him. The Thief King had more than proven himself trustworthy, at least in that regard, at least in Ryou's eyes.

Ryou set his breakfast on the table, still thinking about the Thief King. He wished, just a small, tiny, insignificant bit, that he was able to see, hear, touch him now. Every time Ryou voiced these thoughts, the Thief King always moved the planchette slower, or whispered a soft 'I know' when they shared a mind, and reminded Ryou that he just had to keep living his life so his heart could be properly weighed. Ryou still didn't know how the Spirit of the Ring made it past Ammit with all he did, nor the Theif King, seeing as he hardly lived at all after everything involving Kul Elna. All the Ring Spirit ever said was Atem had strong influence among the gods - usually sent over planchette with as much spite as one could muster while using an Ouija board - and all the Thief King told him was that avenging a genocide was righteous by nature. Ryou didn't understand how the Thief King's quest for blood could be viewed as righteous, but he knew his heart was in the right place, and it was the heart that counted in the end, it would seem.

Ryou shook his head, and smiled to himself as he brought over a cup of tea. The Thief King, at least, had his eyes set on the men responsible. What he became under Zorc, what the Spirit was born from and then ripped free from, that was everything the Thief King hadn't wanted in his journey. Ryou knew that in the same way he knew the sky was blue. He took comfort in knowing that the Thief King had his revenge in some way in the Field of Reeds. Ryou knew he had to have achieved it, or he wouldn't have been so open to bringing Atem to the board. Ryou still didn't have all the details, or even more than a few, but he was certain the Thief King's soul was brighter now than it was in any of the three thousand years he lived.

Ryou took a sip of his tea, looking at his untouched breakfast. The Thief King would like this. He would whine about Ryou getting up so early when he didn't need to, but Ryou knew he would like the breakfast of cooked fish, rice, and pickled plum. He always caught the Spirit of the Ring glancing at eel nigiri in the supermarket, as if the Spirit had been fighting some inner impulse to buy a box, so maybe eel would interest the Thief King more than horse mackerel. He would have to prepare eel for the Thief King the next time they held a solo seance.

Ryou finished his breakfast with his mind still on the Thief King. He sat now with an empty plate, holding a half-empty cup of tea that warmed his hands. He looked over at his empty living room, filled with games and furniture and shelves of displayed figurines, and sighed. He finished the cup of tea, brought the dishes to the sink, and then slipped on his shoes to leave, grabbing his coat before he closed the door.

---

Ryou browsed the wares of a small specialty shop on the other side of Domino, surrounded by the powerful scent of the shelved and displayed incense sticks. He already knew what he needed to grab, but he enjoyed taking the time to appreciate the colorful displays and decorated boxes.

He pulled one box from the shelf, and the strong scent of sandalwood filled the air around him. For just a moment, it was all he could smell. Warmth and cream and polished wood kissed the tip of Ryou's nose before he adjusted to the smell and it faded into the scent background profile of the rest of the store.

Lavender was next, but the fragrant sticks did not overpower the air in the same way the sandalwood had. Instead, the soft smell of lavender was a whisper, the suggestion of an identifiable scent among the muddled mess that was the multi-scented air of the specialty shop. It was calming for a brief moment, and Ryou couldn't help the soft smile that crossed his face. Even though he would not be conscious for it, he looked forward to that night's session.

Ryou brought the boxes of incense to the counter, and purchased five white candles as well. The elderly man behind the counter gave Ryou a look of sorrow, surely guessing Ryou was mourning. Ryou gave a polite smile in return. He wasn't going to say anything if the man kept quiet as well.

Ryou paid and left with the ritual items securely in his bag. Next on his list was dinner shopping, so he took the train to the grocer closer to his apartment.

---

The walk home from the station would have been far easier if Ryou hadn't been carrying groceries and ritual items the entire way there. His arms burned, his back was unhappy with him, and his wrists especially were threatening to cramp from the angles required to support the handleless bag from the specialty shop.

He crouched to set down the bag he held so he could get his key from his pants, the remaining bags weighing on his arms. He unlocked the door and let it swing open as he hefted back up the bag on the ground. He shut the door with his foot before toeing off his shoes and slipping into his house slippers. The plush slippers already made his feet feel better despite the long walk with heavy companions.

Said companions were set on the kitchen counter, along with the bag of candles and incense. Ryou saw no reason to put the ritual supplies away, seeing as he would need them after dinner.

Ryou pulled a pot from its storage spot, and placed three eggs into the pot. He filled it with cold water, eyeballing the amount until the eggs were submerged. He turned on the stove, setting the pot down to boil, and then retrieved a second pot. He filled the pot with water, lit the stove, and set it there to heat. The pot was left containing just water only for as long as it took Ryou to get a slice of kombu kelp from its packaging and place it inside the pot.

The eggs reached their boil, so Ryou killed the heat to that burner, moved the pot to the off back burner, and covered it. He set a timer to check the eggs so he would not forget them.

Two thick slabs of pork wrapped in butcher paper were pulled from one of the bags, unwrapped, and placed in the simmering water in the pot still on an active burner. Ryou took out a stalk of green onion, washed it, chopped up the top half of the stalk, and into the simmering water it went as well. Ryou covered the pot and left it mostly alone, checking it here and there to see if it was boiling yet.

While he waited for the water to boil, Ryou mixed soy sauce, sugar, and sake into a sauce pan to make a marinade for the pork. That was set on the stove at medium heat, and stirred until the sugar dissolved. As if on cue, the water that the kelp, green onion, and pork cooked in reached a boil. Ryou removed the lid, steam pouring out and warming his face. He took out the kelp, setting it aside to be dealt with later. He checked the pork and decided it needed to cook longer, returning the lid to the pot.

The timer for the eggs went off, but Ryou had a feeling the eggs needed just a little longer, so he ignored the timer and prepared a small bowl of cold water and ice. There was a knock at the door just as Ryou reached for the eggs.

"Shit," he swore under his breath. He shook his head, regathering the polite manners he normally had. "Just a minute!" he called out, hoping he hadn't lost track of time. He quickly spooned out the eggs and moved them one by one into the bowl of iced water. He poured out the egg water and placed the pot in the sink. He turned on the faucet, intending on washing it out and using it to make the ramen broth, before rushing over to the door.

Ryou opened the door to reveal one Seto Kaiba, standing in the hallway. He stood as stiff as always, but something about the demeanor struck Ryou as awkward.

"Please, come in," Ryou said, stepping out of the way so Kaiba could get through. "Please forgive dinner not being ready yet." Kaiba gave him a look as he toed off his shoes.

"There is no need to apologize," he said, slipping on the last pair of house slippers and stepping into the living room. "I'm early. Yugi is buying flowers, and insisted I show early to help with dinner."

"Atem will love that," Ryou said with a soft coo. Yugi's thoughtfulness made Ryou's heart ache in the warm, light way that only witnessing someone's love language could cause. "You most certainly will not be helping with dinner, however. You are a guest. Let me get you a cup of tea." Kaiba, not actually wanting to help make dinner, didn't need to be told twice. He sat down on the couch, hands together in his lap, as Ryou returned to the kitchen.

Ryou put a kettle on the last free stove burner and set it to high. Ryou checked on the pork again, and this time was satisfied. He removed both slabs of pork loin from the pot and set them on the cutting board. He pulled a large knife from the holding block in the corner of the counter, the reflective sheen of the blade catching Ryou's chocolate eyes as it was freed.

Ryou cut the pork into thin slices, and then transferred the slices onto a plate. He reached over for the sauce pan, and brought it over to pour the marinade onto the sliced pork. He turned that burner off despite knowing he would need to turn it on again for cooking the noodles.

Ryou caught the hiss of the kettle just in time to pull down a mug and spoon green tea leaves into a steeper before the kettle began its wail. He turned off the kettle's burner as well, and pulled it over to pour the steaming water into the mug. He set the kettle back onto the holder that protected the counter from the heated stainless steel. With one hand at the mug's handle and the other at its bottom to keep it steady, Ryou brought the mug of tea to Kaiba in the living room.

"So, Yugi tells me tonight was your idea," Ryou said as he handed over the mug. Kaiba nodded, though Ryou could not tell if it was in thanks or in confirmation. Kaiba took a slow sip of the tea, undeterred from the temperature.

"Do not take this the wrong way, Ryou," Kaiba said as he lowered the mug. He met Ryou's eyes for a brief moment before looking away and holding out the mug of tea. "If you are to be successful tonight, it will be- difficult for me." Kaiba hesitated, and Ryou could almost feel the personal conflict radiate off the man. "Spike this." Ryou could not help that he stared. A look of understanding crossed his face, and he nodded.

Ryou brought the mug back into the kitchen, and poured something close to a shot's worth of sake into the mug. Kaiba already drank just enough that the mug held the alcohol without threatening to spill over.

Kaiba did not meet his eyes when Ryou brought the mug back. He took the mug from Ryou's offering hands without a word, but a small smile crossed his lips when he took a sip. Had Ryou not known Kaiba for as long as he did, there was no doubt he would have missed the smile that was barely a twitch of the mouth. He would have certainly missed the smile even more so considering most of his time had been spent around the Spirit of the Ring, Marik, and the Thief King, all of whom smiled wide with manic grins.

Ryou thought for a moment that he should sneak a picture of Kaiba smiling for Yugi. He couldn't imagine a man so cold and guarded smiled much, even in private settings. It saddened him to think such things, so he turned and went back to the kitchen to finish dinner instead.

He cracked and peeled the hard-boiled eggs, chipping the shells before returning them to the iced water, only to remove them one by one once more and peel off the shell. It was a process he had seen his mother do, before her death. It made the eggshells peel away easier. The chunks of shell were tossed into a bag meant for compost, and a clean cutting board was pulled out so Ryou could cut the eggs without needing to clean the board used for the pork. The eggs were sliced in halves. Ryou turned his attention to the stove with two open burners, intending on making broth and finally cooking the noodles.

Ryou mixed soy sauce, sake, and some salt into the pot that once contained the pork and still contained the green onion. He stirred that for a moment before placing the lid back over the pot and washing out the pot that had held the eggs. He dried the pot, filled it with water, and set it on the stove with the burner on medium. From one of the grocery bags, Ryou pulled several packages of instant ramen noodles, ripped open the packages, and placed the sheets of dehydrated noodles into the pot. The water simmered around the noodle bunches, cooking them and loosening them slowly.

While he waited, Ryou washed the cutting board that was used for the pork. Once it was clean, he pulled from the grocery bag a leek stalk and a ginger root. He washed both before cutting them into strips and tossing them into the simmering broth to cook just as long as the noodles needed.

It did not take long for the noodles to soften enough for Ryou to flip them over in the pot with a pair of cooking chopsticks. It took even less time after that for Ryou to be able to gently shake the noodles apart with the chopsticks. The noodles swirled in the water like thick ropes, or the arms of jellyfish.

Ryou let the noodles sit for a moment as he pulled three bowls from the cupboard. He turned off the stove burner under the pot of noodles, strained the noodles, and portioned them into the bowls. The noodles were placed with care in their presentation, gently layered in drooping rows instead of portioned out in clumped tangles. The broth and its vegetables were poured into the bowls next, carefully as not to spill anything on the counter. The pork that had been soaking in the marinade was added next, arranged in sixes and fanned out like a splayed deck of cards. It wasn't until Ryou went to put the eggs in the bowl and complete the decorative presentation that he swore.

"I forgot to sweeten the eggs," he grumbled, just quiet enough that it was all to himself. There was a knock at the door. Regular eggs would have to do. "Just a minute!" Ryou called out to the door, but Kaiba stood and set down his mug.

"I can get it, Ryou," he said, far kinder than he would normally. Ryou assumed it was the drink. Sure enough, the sound of Yugi's voice could be heard over at the doorway. Kaiba walked into the kitchen as Ryou finished arranging the bowls.

"Yugi! Perfect ti-"

"Do you have another pair of slippers? There are no-"

"Oh! My apologies, I do not often have so many guests over. Yes, I can get another pair," Ryou said, and hurried off to his bedroom. He returned with a pair of blue house slippers, and brought them over to the doorway.

"Thank you!" Yugi said before Ryou could apologize again for neglecting to put out enough guest slippers. "I didn't want to track dirt into your living room, but I felt weird walking around in just my socks." Ryou gave an apologetic smile as Yugi unlaced his shoes and slipped on the slippers.

"You arrived just in time," Ryou said. "I just finished making dinner."

"I can tell! It smells amazing in here. You always cook so well," Yugi gushed, giving Ryou the shining eyes of admiration. It made his heart stutter. The worst thing about it was Ryou couldn't even bring himself to chastise himself for starting to fawn while Yugi's boyfriend was sitting on his couch, because Yugi's big, beautiful, excited eyes were all on Ryou and all Ryou could see.

"Yugi, stop hypnotizing Ryou," Kaiba called from the couch as a blush grew across Ryou's cheeks. Yugi stuck his tongue out at Kaiba, and Ryou used the break in attention to slip away back to the kitchen.

When Ryou returned with two of the bowls of ramen, Yugi and Kaiba were sitting together on the couch. Kaiba held his mug of tea as if it were the only source of stability in the room, and Yugi talked quietly. Whatever Yugi had been saying was cut short when Ryou set down the two bowls on the coffee table.

"Shouldn't we eat in the dining room?" Kaiba asked, to which Ryou shook his head.

"There's no need, I'll set up everything I need in here while you two eat."

"Where's your bowl, Ryou?" Yugi asked. Ryou gave him a warm smile, one that was as gentle and kind as the summer breeze.

"I'm not eating with you. Atem likely will miss food from the living world, and I couldn't stomach two bowls of ramen in one sitting," Ryou said, his intent clear. He remembered when he first channeled the Thief King to possess him, and how he ate until he got sick. He also remembered how the Thief King spent several minutes just rubbing his fingers across Ryou's silk nightshirt, as if he had forgotten what it felt like to touch through living skin and not however spirits touch things in the afterlife.

Yugi gave Ryou a thankful smile, and Ryou excused himself to set up for the evening. He retrieved the bag of candles and incense from the kitchen, and brought it to the living room before heading to his room to get the spirit board.

"I hope this wasn't asking too much," Yugi said while Ryou was away. Kaiba slurped his noodles, but raised an eyebrow to show he was listening. "Ryou was possessed for so long, it was probably insensitive of me to ask him to do this."

"You didn't, I did," Kaiba said. He reached for his tea, and took a long sip before continuing. "Your friends are used to me being 'insensitive'. You have nothing to worry about."

"That isn't any better!" Yugi exclaimed and gave Kaiba a gentle shove. Kaiba gave Yugi a slide glance, but his small smile was glowing with smug amusement.

"If Ryou did not want to do this, he wouldn't," Kaiba said. He set down his mug, and Yugi made a grab for it. "Wait, Yugi, it's-!" The grimace Yugi wore after taking a sip said it all.

"You spiked it!"

"Yes, now give that back," Kaiba held out his hand, even though he could take the mug from Yugi just as easily. Yugi held the mug closer to his chest.

"I don't know, you're very talkative. Maybe you've had enough," he said with a grin. Kaiba recognized the playful look in his eyes and scowled.

"Yugi," he warned, but Yugi was already scooting away.

"Have to catch me," Yugi's sing-song voice echoed through the living room. Kaiba took the bait as if Yugi didn't do this every time a conversation grew heavy, and dove for Yugi and the mug. Kaiba crashed into Yugi, into the other arm of the couch. Yugi lost hold of the mug upon impact. Kaiba tried to grab it before the mug hit the ground, but he was too late. The mug hit the carpet, spilling tea all over the floor. An 'ahem' grabbed both men's attentions. They looked over at Ryou, standing in the bridge space between the living room and the dining area, looking like two foolish deer caught in headlights.

"While I appreciate the enthusiasm, this isn't that type of ritual," Ryou said with a laugh, and only then did either man realize the position they were in. Yugi was pinned under Kaiba, and Kaiba was stretched across Yugi, one leg in between Yugi's and an arm bracing himself up on the armrest. Kaiba's face grew warm, and he scrambled back to his side of the couch as Yugi just laughed and got up to fetch the fallen mug.

"Sorry about the mess," Yugi said, but Ryou waved it off as he set down everything he grabbed from his room.

"Don't worry about it," Ryou said as he walked over and got the cup from Yugi. "I'll get you a towel to clean it before any stains set." Ryou turned to address Kaiba. "Would you like another cup?"

"Half shot this time," Kaiba said with a nod. Ryou went back to the kitchen with Yugi at his heels. Ryou gave Yugi a soft towel to clean up the spilled tea.

"I really am sorry about the tea," Yugi said. His big, violet eyes looked up at Ryou and Ryou couldn't stand it. He wanted to go back to watching Yugi and Kaiba teasing each other, grins and hidden smirks and playful looks.

"Really Yugi, don't worry about it," Ryou said. "It's nice seeing you and Kaiba so happy together." Ryou was quiet for a moment, and then his voice grew serious. "He is kind to you, correct?"

"He's distant," Yugi admitted, but shook his head before Ryou could say anything. "But, I think distant is something we both need right now. Whenever we're together," and Yugi's voice trailed off. A soft smile crossed Yugi's face, tugging up the corners of his eyes just a little as he grew lost in thought, and Ryou couldn't help but think how lucky Kaiba was to be the cause of such a look on Yugi's face.

"Go back to the living room, and I'll meet you in there in a minute," Ryou said, and Yugi left to clean up the spill.

Ryou pulled down a clean mug for Kaiba and made him a new up of tea, adding only a half-shot of sake this time. He brought it and the third bowl of ramen, still steaming, out to the living room. He gave Kaiba the mug, for which Ryou received a grateful smile, and then set the bowl of ramen on the floor.

Yugi and Kaiba watched as Ryou arranged candles and incense, lighting each one before turning off the living room lights. The Ouija board was set up in the candlelight as the scents of sandalwood and lavender filled the room.

Ryou was already halfway into a trance from the incense and methodical process of setting up the board. He motioned for Yugi and Kaiba to come over, and the two took their seats across from each other on either side of the board. The air felt heavy as soon as everyone's fingertips rested on the planchette. Ryou took a deep breath, centering himself, before he let himself reach out into the unknown.

"Is anyone there?" Ryou called out into the silence of the room. The planchette moved without further call.

Y-O-U A-R-E L-A-T-E. A pause. H-E-L-L-O A-N-Y-W-A-Y.

"Who are you?" Kaiba asked, much bolder than the first session with the board. Ryou blamed the drink for loosening his tongue, though he didn't actually believe a shot and a half would weaken Kaiba's personal defenses at all.

T-H-E K-I-N-G O-F T-H-I-E-V-E-S. A pause. A-N-D Y-O-U-R P-H-A-R-A-O-H.

"You're not both going to possess Ryou, are you?" Yugi's concern radiated from his voice. Ryou shook his head.

"The Thief King is Atem's insurance plan on the other side, like how you and Kaiba are mine," Ryou explained.

E-X-A-C-T-L-Y. A pause. D-O N-O-T B-R-E-A-K R-Y-O-U T-O-N-I-G-H-T. Ryou's face flushed bright red, aglow in the flickering candlelight. Ryou glared at the board.

"Have you already explained to Atem what to do?" he asked, not making any comments on what the Thief King was insinuating. He could feel is eyelids start to droop, his mind and spirit already more than comfortable with channeling under those conditions.

YES.

"Okay," Ryou said. He took a deep breath, and then looked at Yugi and Kaiba. "Have fun tonight, you two, and tell Atem I said hello. Goodbye for tonight, Thief King." Ryou felt his eyes close before he heard or saw any reply from anyone.

Yugi and Kaiba both said their goodbyes as the planchette moved to 'GOODBYE', and both looked over at Ryou with concern. He was slumped forward, hands off the board, eyes closed, but breathing.

"Ryou?" Yugi asked as he debated with himself if he should try to wake Ryou. Before Yugi had an opportunity, Ryou sat up with a loud gasp. He doubled over coughing, gripping the carpeted floor of the living room. Yugi was at his side immediately, one hand on his thigh and the other rubbing his back. Ryou looked over at Yugi once he settled, and his eyes grew wide as a large grin spread across his face.

"Aibou!" was the only warning Yugi received before he had Ryou - who was evidentially actually Atem - wrapping his arms around Yugi's shoulders and kissing Yugi like he gave the man life. Kaiba was frozen where he sat on the floor, watching Atem in Ryou's body kiss Yugi like that. He would never admit it aloud, but seeing the two like that was not going to leave his brain for some time. The two were absolutely beautiful.

"I've missed you so much, I thought I'd have to wait so long to hold you again," Atem said once he pulled back from the kiss that left Yugi's brain entirely fried. He couldn't help gushing over Yugi like this. Atem wanted nothing more than to make Yugi happy for as long as he could. "I love you, aibou, never ever ever forget that I love you. You're my sun, my Ra, gods above I want to hold you and never let you g-" Atem's rambling confessions were cut short by Kaiba clearing his throat, tired of the slightly third-wheel role he had taken on.

"Atem-"

"Seto, you're here too?" Atem's wide eyes were fixed on Kaiba now, and Atem's gaze - even through Ryou's eyes - made Kaiba's voice catch in his throat. Atem threw himself into Kaiba's unprepared arms, leaving Kaiba to scramble to both hold Atem and not fall back onto the floor. Atem's arms were tight around Kaiba's middle, his head buried in Kaiba's neck, Ryou's hair in Kaiba's face. Kaiba smoothed the man's hair down before remembering Atem was piloting Ryou's body. His face grew warm, his hand hesitating, still tangled in long, white hair.

"Hello, Atem," Kaiba finally said, and recieved brown eyes filled with love looking up at him in return.

"Hello, Seto," Atem said as he reached up and cupped Kaiba's cheek, brushing along his cheekbone with his thumb. Atem leaned up and bumped the tip of his nose against Kaiba's.

"How do I know it's really you, and not just Ryou acting?" Kaiba asked, wanting so hard to believe Atem was there, but unable to see Atem in Ryou's brown eyes.

"In the fourth drawer of your second bedroom, behind a box with early print cards in it, you keep a custom blu-" A hand covered Atem's mouth before he could finish. Kaiba glanced a nervous glance over at Yugi, and then glared at Atem.

"Out of all the things you could have brought up," Kaiba growled. Atem gave him an innocent smile, which was much more effective as Ryou than in his own body or even as Yugi.

"I had to make sure you would know it was really me," Atem replied with mocking glee. Kaiba scowled, until Atem kissed the tip of his nose, and a new wave of blushing red washed across his cheeks. "Thank you for this," Atem whispered for only Kaiba to hear. Kaiba swallowed nervously and nodded, unable to speak under Atem's affections.

Ryou's stomach growled, and Atem scowled. He looked over at Yugi with a look of concern on his face.

"I'm starving. Ryou is still taking care of himself, right?"

"Yes, of course," Yugi said. He nodded over to the lone bowl of ramen sitting on the floor. "He just wanted you to join us for dinner." Atem looked over at the bowl, and climbed off of Kaiba. He tried to stand, but stood too quickly and lost his balance. Yugi and Kaiba were both on their feet in an instant, reaching out to catch Atem.

"Thanks," Atem said, a sheepish blush heating his cheeks. "Ryou is much taller than you, aibou. This will take some getting used to." Yugi gave a little fake pout, and Kaiba couldn't help but smile. Being with Atem and Yugi together felt so right.

Once Atem felt oriented enough to move, he walked over and sat down beside the bowl of ramen, legs crossed. He slurped the broth from the bowl as Yugi grabbed the two bowls he and Kaiba hadn't finished.

"This tastes amazing," Atem said, nearly moaning from just the ramen broth.

"Ryou is quite the cook, isn't he," Kaiba said with a fond smile as he watched Atem. He crouched down beside Atem and brushed back some of the loose hair in Atem's face, tucking it behind his ear. Atem turned just enough to kiss the inside of Kaiba's palm as their eyes met, and Kaiba felt his breath catch in his throat. Atem gently bit the inside of Kaiba's wrist, and Kaiba pulled his hand back as if he had been burned.

"Here," Yugi said, having returned with the bowls but missed Atem's toying. "I'll have to get extra chopsticks from the kitchen, I can't find mine and Ryou didn't leave Atem any."

"It's alright, I'll get them. You eat," Kaiba said, and made a beeline for the kitchen before Yugi could say anything else. Yugi looked at Atem with a raised eyebrow, and Atem just shrugged, giving an obviously false innocent smile in return.

Kaiba had no clue where Ryou kept chopsticks, he only left for a moment to breathe. He knew it was Atem, even though it was Ryou's body, and that wasn't the issue. He was confused and a bit frightened by how little he didn't mind it being Ryou's body. He took a deep breath and leaned against the fridge. The cold plastic of the refrigerator door helped ground him, slowing his thoughts down just enough to re-pace his breathing before it could grow sporadic.

Chopsticks. He was in the kitchen to find chopsticks. Atem with Ryou's face could wait, messy feelings could wait, everything except finding chopsticks could wait. Kaiba opened drawers, trying to find a drawer with silverware and other utensils. He nearly made it all around the kitchen, pulling out drawer after drawer, until he found the one he needed. He grabbed two sets of chopsticks and then turned toward the kitchen door. Another deep breath. He could do this. Focus on Atem, not Ryou. Atem Atem Atem. Atem.

Kaiba stepped out into the living room to find Yugi and Ryou feeding each other slices of pork from the bowls, taking turns with the lone pair of chopsticks between the two. No, Atem! Not Ryou, Atem!

"Here," Kaiba said, holding out one of the pairs he retrieved as he sat down with his bowl.

"Thank you," Atem said, handing Yugi back the mutual pair and taking the pair Kaiba brought. "Yugi tells me you're together," Atem said, causing Kaiba to choke with noodles still in his mouth.

"Atem, you didn't need to do that!" Yugi exclaimed as Kaiba recovered. Atem grinned at Yugi, but the grin faded when he saw Yugi wasn't amused.

"Sorry, aibou," Atem said. He looked over at Kaiba, and their eyes met as Kaiba sat back up. "Sorry, Seto. You've just been quiet, I wanted to lighten the mood. I know this is somber, but it does feel a little like a date, so that's nice."

"It is a date," Kaiba said, ignoring Atem's apology. He didn't look away from Atem this time, keeping eye contact long enough to add, "we're dating. You, Yugi, and I."

"I would not want us to be any less," Atem smiled a soft, warm smile that even on Ryou's kind face appeared like someone else was controlling Ryou's movements. Kaiba liked that he noticed such differences now, just as he once learned to notice those differences on Yugi's face and in Yugi's mannerisms.

The three ate in comfortable silence, breaking it only to give more praise to Ryou's cooking or make a cheap flirt that resulted in various levels of laughter. When dinner was done, all three of them rinsed out the bowls and loaded them in the dishwasher.

Yugi pulled Atem over to the door that lead to the balcony overlooking the horizon and the road from the fourth floor. Atem followed Yugi like it was the most natural thing in the world for him, Kaiba right beside him.

"Let's watch the sun rise out here, it'll only be a couple hours longer," Yugi insisted, his hand still clasping Atem's.

"I'm not sure we should be keeping Ryou's body awake for so long," Atem said. He looked at Kaiba, hoping for back up from the logic side of the trio.

"Are you able to ask him if it's alright? Can he communicate with you right now?" Yugi asked, to which Atem just shook his head.

"It isn't like you and I, with the Puzzle," Atem said. He looked up at the moon, sinking down towards the horizon line. "Maybe in time and with practice, Ryou and I would cohabitate like you and I did, but right now, it's very much the same as when you first wore the Puzzle." He looked back over to Yugi, and moved to bump their noses together. Kaiba walked over and leaned against Yugi's back, draping himself onto Yugi, his chin resting on Yugi's head and his arms across Yugi's shoulders.

"Atem's right, Yugi," Kaiba said into the spikes of Yugi's hair. "It's getting late."

"Yeah, I know," Yugi sighed, but Atem tipped his chin up and kissed him before Yugi could say anything more.

"You know I'm not going anywhere," Atem said as he pulled back to give Yugi a smile. "We will have all the time in the world. I'm going to be tired too, when I get back. Would it be alright to fall asleep in your arms?"

"Of course!" Yugi latched onto Atem, causing Kaiba to need to move to keep from falling forward. Atem hugged Yugi back, and looked at Kaiba. Kaiba smiled at the two, the soft smile that made Atem's heart melt. Atem's expression melded into a silent swoon as he admired Kaiba in the moonlight.

"Come on, the couch is going to be more comfortable," Kaiba said. "It's cold out."

The three went back inside, and the temperature difference could be felt immediately. Ryou's apartment was far warmer than the frigid winter air of the night. Yugi grabbed a blanket from the spare bedroom while Kaiba and Atem went back to the living room.

The two were cuddled together on the couch, Atem in Kaiba's arms and Kaiba carding his fingers through Atem's borrowed white hair, when Yugi returned. Atem moved a bit so Yugi could lay down with his head on Atem's chest, and Atem's head on Kaiba's chest. Yugi draped them all in the blanket as best he could. Kaiba kept his arms wrapped around Atem, holding him as if it alone would prolong the night as much as possible.

"I will see you again," Kaiba said. Atem looked up to see Kaiba with the same intense expression he wore during their duels.

"I know that look. Don't you dare do anything reckless," Atem said, giving Kaiba a gentle but firm look of warning. "Or foolish," he added a beat later, knowing Kaiba's skill at wordplay. Kaiba kissed the top of Atem's head.

"Say hello to everyone in Egypt for me," Yugi said, turning so he was laying on his stomach, his chin propped up on the back of his hands on Atem's chest.

"I will," Atem said, facing Yugi and carding his fingers through Yugi's hair. "I love you," he said, and then faced Kaiba agan. "Both of you." Instead of saying anything, Kaiba leaned forward and kissed Atem. It was the most chaste kiss of his life, but he put every feeling he had into it, and the way Atem relaxed into the kiss told him Atem heard every word.

 

Atem fell asleep shortly after, warm and sandwiched between Kaiba and Yugi on the couch. That was the exact state Ryou regained consciousness in as well, but he didn't let on. He just enjoyed the moment and the warmth of the two men, snuggled a little closer, and fell asleep himself once more.

It didn't go unnoticed by any of the three that Kaiba and Yugi both walked a little bit lighter after the successful seance. Ryou wasn't going to point it out, but he knew getting to speak with Atem helped heal a bit of the hole the loss left behind.