In the month since he had last seen it, Domino City had changed drastically. The shift from summer to autumn had set in during his absence, and the trees were ragged, leaves a disjointed firework. His plane had landed late in the evening, and Atem had begun to wander the streets, reacquainting himself with the town.
There was little else to do, after-all, everybody he knew would be asleep – and they wouldn’t know him any more than the Ishtar family had. Atem braced a hand on his hip, coming to a stop outside the arcade he had once visited with Anzu. Whilst the shops either side of the building were darkened, the Arcade bathed its surroundings in a faint light, the slight hum of games coming from within. After looking over the building, Atem moved forward to uncertainly lean against the door, and it swung open easily. Atem stopped uncertainly, but slowly stepped into the arcade, glancing around.
“Hello?” Atem called out, frowning; the place was deserted, not even an attendant in the place, “What bad security…” He murmured to himself, and approached a nearby beeping game curiously. Some kind of gambling game, and Atem traced a hand along the controls. The machine chirped in response, but Atem released the buttons, instead moving further into the arcade.
It was a far cry from the first time he’d been here, with its crowds and excited gamers, this time it was instead heavy with a lazy quiet. There were the small sounds of the games, and Atem followed each one. He would eye them, occasionally reach out to prod them, before moving on. Eventually, he had wandered towards a familiar dancing game, which unlike the soft sounds of the others, was ringing with noise, all lit up, and dancing on the machine - rather poorly - was Ryuji.
“Yo,” Atem called out without thinking, and Ryuji jerked round, and the game squealed in disappointment, “Sorry,” Atem added, wincing at the noise as the machine flashed a fail screen.
“It’s fine, I’m bad at it anyway,” Ryuji sauntered off the platform towards Atem, “God, what time is it? Is it opening hours already-” He looked sheepish, but upon examining his phone, blinked in surprise, “It’s four, how did you get-“
Atem gestured back the way he had come, “The door was open,” He ducked his head politely, “I thought it was okay to come in.”
“Ah,” Ryuji waved a hand, “It’s not the first time I’ve forgotten to lock up after getting here,” Ryuji grabbed his jacket from the side, wriggling into it, “I’m Otogi Ryuji, by the way - I design games," He sounded almost defensive, eying Atem, before his face shifted to a hopeful expression, “Uh, Dungeon Dice Monsters? Heard of it?”
“Played it,” Atem answered honestly.
“Yeah?” Ryuji looked pleased, and then laughed in embarrassment, “But what I meant was, I am meant to be here; I was just setting up a few games and,” He nodded towards the DDR, “And I guess I thought I’d blow off some steam with a game; guess I wasn’t working too hard,” He twirled his hair nervously, “Sorry, I’m making excuses,” Ryuji jammed his hands in his pockets, “What was your name again? I missed it.”
Atem had not been sure how he would deal with surnames, and what ended up on his falsified documents was a quick decision, and an regrettable one at that, “Sa-Re Atem,” He could already tell he was not going to enjoy being addressed as Sa-Re-san, and would have to make a huge point of preferring his first name, “Or Atem, that’s easier.”
“Atem-san,” Ryuji approximated with surprising grace, looking at Atem for approval, “Well, it’s nice to meet you then,” He offered Atem his hand, “So are you new to Domino City? I don’t think I’ve seen you around.”
“Just flew in from Egypt a few hours ago,” Atem confessed.
“Still adjusting from jet lag, huh?” Ryuji nodded towards the entrance, “Come on, let me get you something to warm you up – you’ve got to be freezing, Egypt and all?”
Atem followed Ryuji towards the door, “It’s not so bad, actually,” He shrugged, "It gets cold at night anyways."
“You’re lucky then,” Ryuji snorted, “I went to Australia once – getting back in the middle of winter was a real experience,” He approached a row of vending machines by the door, and scanned the menu, “So any preference?”
“Matcha?” Atem dug through his pocket, rifling for yen, and Ryuji shook his head.
“Don’t worry, my treat to the new arrival,” Ryuji put in Atem’s order, and passed it to him, before making his own selection, “So you’ve lived in Japan, right? You speak it well.”
“I did,” Atem sat down at the bench near the vending machines, before taking a deep gulp of his drink, “It’s a long story.”
“It’s 4am,” Ryuji pointed out, joining Atem at the bench. Atem looked at him in confusion, and Ryuji grinned, “If you can’t tell a long story at 4am, when can you?” Despite the comment, Ryuji changed the subject, taking a slow sip of his drink, “Planning on staying in Domino long?”
“No,” Atem took another steady gulp of the tea, and then inspected his hands quietly, “I cannot stay long.”
Ryuji stretched out his legs with a pleased hum, obviously feeling the strain from the DDR, “Oh, just a short visit?” He asked, still stretching on the spot.
“I don’t know,” Atem stated bluntly, and Ryuji paused to look over at him, a puzzled look muddying his features.
“Hm, another long story,” Ryuji determined, looking away and nodding in understanding, “I better change the subject. So you’ve played my game, huh?”
“A few times,” Atem laughed guiltily, scruffing at his hair, “I’m more of a Duel Monsters player.”
“Most people are,” Ryuji snorted, a note of annoyance in his voice swept up between his determined tone, "I'm kind of over it, mostly," He took another sip from his drink, “Actually? Have you heard of the Kame Game Shop? You should come by tomorrow-“ Ryuji yawned, cricking his neck, “Well, in four hours. God, it’s so late, it’s early.”
Atem’s akh felt washed out, but nothing extraordinarily tired; it was both concerning, and useful. Absently, Atem finished his drink, “My jetlag is pretty strong; it feels like midday to me, so,” He stood up to throw the container into the bin nearby, “Kame Game Shop?” His voice was small, the words familiar, and cutting a little too deep.
Ryuji didn't seem to notice, still nursing his drink with a tired glance at Atem, “Yeah, there’s a casual tournament going down, no sign-ups, just show up and duel. They can even lend you a deck,” Ryuji smiled winningly, and Atem’s face must have shown something of his loss, because Ryuuji hastily spoke up, “And you don’t need to worry about level,” He gulped the last of his tea, “I mean it’s just a casual thing for customers, um,” He got up to throw his drink away, “Would it help if I said the Duelist King is moderating?" He gave a vague gesture of his hand, "Yeah? Pretty big opportunity to meet a dueling legend, know what I mean?” The hand settled on Ryuji's hip, as Ryuji blinked down at Atem, “Atem-san?”
“Oh, sorry,” Atem blinked, and sat back onto the bench, “It does sound good, I’ll definitely check it out,” Atem waved a hand, “I’m just lost in thought, forgive me.”
“That’s fine, long journeys will do that,” Ryuji nodded, “So, Kame Game Shop is on the other side of town, I can take you there,” He paused, studying Atem for a moment, “You know, you two wouldn’t look that dissimilar actually, you and Yuugi-kun.”
“I’ve heard that before,” Atem nodded, “Hair or something.”
“I guess,” Ryuji hummed, “You just have a similar look,” Eying Atem’s hair, Ryuuji gave a grudging huff, “I guess I can see the resemblance.”
Ryuji was so tired, that by the time they reached Kame Game Shop, he hadn’t noticed that Atem had taken over leading. Still, once they had reached the store, Atem wasn't surprised to look back to Ryuji, who waved amiably at Atem to go on, “Sorry Atem-san, I’m calling it a night -- or a morning?" He yawned, "See you around?” Laughing through the yawn, Ryuuji waved at Atem again. With that Ryuji staggered off, leaving Atem staring in growing terror at the shopfront.
Eyes wide, and mouth a taunt line, Atem took a steadying breath at the demand of his mind. As usual, this body hadn’t even considered asking for air, and Atem suspected it wouldn’t have noticed if he never drew another one. Shivering, Atem took another gulp of air. It was one thing to face Malik, or Ryuji like this, but Yuugi had been his partner. To be a stranger to him did not sit well in him, wriggling and biting at his resolve. Atem shut his eyes, steadied himself, before reaching out to push the door open.
It opened just as Atem leaned forward, and he tumbled into the shop with a yipe. Clattering to the floor with a thump, he braced himself upon his hands, and winced, “Sorry!” And there it was; Atem took his time to focus on the voice properly, studying the shoes, before grudgingly looking up at Yuugi, “You okay?”
“I- um,” Atem struggled for words, and Yuugi offered a hand to him.
“Here, sorry,” Yuugi beamed at Atem, waiting for him to take the hand, “I saw you out front, and thought you might be nervous, so I thought-“ Yuugi paused, giving an awkward laugh, “Sorry, are you okay?”
“Yes, I,” Atem ignored the hand, pushing himself to his feet, “Sorry, just surprised. Uh,” Atem was tangling himself in his words, “Duel,” He managed, “Duel tournament, Ryu- Otogi-san said-“ Atem fell silent, deciding he had buried himself rather effectively already.
“Ryuji-kun?” Yuugi’s eyes lit up, and Atem wanted nothing more than to kick at a wall. Yuugi recognized Ryuji’s name better than him, “Oh well, then. Hi, I’m-”
“Yuugi,” Atem interrupted, voice strained, and then flinched, “Ah, Mutou-san,” He corrected, and then hurriedly tried to explain, “Sorry, I’ve seen you duel on-screen and, yes, you’re Mutou Yuugi, I know, yes, that’s you.”
This was a horrible wreck of a moment, and Atem would have gladly buried himself, dug out a hole, and pulled the sand in over his head. This was going on like a house on fire, meaning it was an unstoppable disaster.
Yuugi just smiled peacefully, “Yep, that’s me,” He agreed, “So you’re here for the tournament?” At Atem’s nod, Yuugi picked up a clipboard from the counter, studying it for a moment, “Hello there, and welcome to Kame Game Shop, where everything is half price for today, and only today,” Yuugi looked up, flashing an apologetic smile, “I have to say that, sorry. What was your name?”
Surprised, Atem fought back the urge to chuckle, instead answering in a daze, “Atem,” The name came to him almost easily this time.
Yuugi blinked, “Atem…?” He questioned, and Atem felt as though he’d been gutted. He struggled to keep his face clear, swallowing hard; it was strange to hear the complete wrong name from Yuugi. Strange and unpleasant, and Atem frowned. He should have passed through the field of reeds by now, rather than lingering like this. Yuugi shifted awkwardly, coughing, “Sorry, I need your full name, Atem.”
“Oh,” Atem blinked, “Sa-Re Atem.”
“Okay,” Yuugi scribbled on the clipboard, “Will you be using your own deck today?”
“Mh,” Atem fished his deck out of his pocket, splaying the top layer of cards out for a second, before snapping it together, and holding it out for inspection.
“Oh, that’s okay,” Yuugi waved the deck away, “This is just a low-level tournament; as long as you don’t have Yata-Garasu, Witch of the Black Forest, or the Dark Magician of Chaos in there, it’s fine- ah, or Change of Heart,” He tapped his pen against the clipboard, “And we’re limiting Monster Reborn to one.”
Atem shuffled through his deck, and extracted Dark Magician of Chaos, and Yata-Garasu, showing it to Yuugi, “Just these,” This was easy, relatively. Setting up a competition deck was something he was used to, although it was interesting to play at this sort of level, with forbidden and limited cards. Atem placed the two illegal cards into his pocket, reshuffling his deck absently. Atem paused mid-shuffle, and then, separated the God Cards out, “These three usually make things one-sided,” He said slowly.
Yuugi winked knowingly, “Almost any card can do that in the right circumstances,” Yuugi readjusted his clipboard, “Don’t worry about it though, play your heart out I say.”
“That’s good advice,” Atem returned the God cards to his deck, deciding he’d refrain from summoning them when it would be unsporting. Against small children, that sort of thing, “Thank you.”
“Not a problem,” Yuugi hummed, “Okay, so do you have an e-mail, and would you like to receive a monthly update on,” Yuugi rolled his eyes, “All things Duelin’- sorry again, my Grandpa is trying to draw in some of the younger crowd right now.”
“No e-mail,” Atem shrugged.
“That simplifies that then,” Yuugi examined his clipboard again, “Are you okay to spend some time afterwards answering a survey – it’s just, did you have fun, how would you rate the set-up, was the service good, that sort of stuff.”
“That’s fine,” Atem nodded.
Yuugi set the clipboard to the side, “That takes care of entry then,” He leaned against the counter, “Are you from Egypt?” He asked curiously, “Atem-san,” Yuugi sounded it out with fascination.
“Mh,” Atem nodded, “Luxor,” It wasn’t strictly true, but it wasn't strictly untrue.
“That’s near the Valley of the Kings!” Yuugi lit up with a sparking smile, “Have you ever been?”
Atem had been recently, in fact, specifically to view his tomb. That had proven impossible since the entire complex had collapsed, buried under a thick and stubborn layer of dust.
“Not much else to do in Luxor,” Atem sighed, Luxor had indeed been strangely routine; go to the Valley, play a day of games, go to the museum every other evening, rinse and inevitably repeat.
“Domino will be a bit of a change then,” Yuugi laughed, “Kaiba Corp is based here, so it’s a bit busy,” His attention shifted towards the door, “Excuse me,” He snatched up the clipboard and bounded towards the door to wave in a small gaggle of duelists, as Atem took a seat at one of the tables set out for duels, pulling his deck back out to pass the time.
It was at the heels of this wave that Jounouchi, Anzu and Honda came in, and Jounouchi snagged Yuugi with one arm, “Hey Yuugi!” Atem watched them out of the corner of his eye, fussing with his deck as he did so. Honda and Anzu had both headed into the back after an enthusiastic wave at Yuugi, who was struggling under Jounouchi’s weight.
“Eh?” Yuugi wriggled loose, “I’ve got to work Jounouchi-kun.”
“Boring,” Jounouchi decided, and gave a lively thumbs up, “Alright, what can I do?”
“Meet and Greet,” Yuugi shoved Jounouchi towards the tables, and Atem redoubled his focus on his cards. It still didn’t help.
“Hey there newbie!” Jounouchi settled into the chair across from Atem, all but flicking his own deck onto the table, “I’m Katsuya Jounouchi!” He stuck a hand out fiercely, and Atem took it, the feeling a little lukewarm.
“Atem,” Atem waited for Jounouchi to let go of his hand, but Jounouchi focused on giving it a vigorous shake first.
“Atemu-san?” Jounouchi grinned, “So you’re new,” Jounouchi began setting up his playing space, and Atem belatedly realized Jounouchi was intending to duel him. He quickly followed suit in setting up his cards, “You should know though,” Jounouchi scratched his cheek, still grinning from ear to ear like a misbehaved puppy, “I’m one of the best Duelists in the World, so don’t feel too bad if you don’t beat me, right?”
Atem finished setting his dueling area up, smirking at Jounouchi, “Got it,” He gestured expansively at the table, “Come on, it’s game time,” Atem drew his hand, and then nodded at Jounouchi, “Your move first, 3000 LP.”
“Haha, alright then!” Jounouchi drew his first hand, his grin reaching maddening levels when he made his draw stage, “Awesome,” He proclaimed, setting down a card from his hand, “I summon Aligator Sword in Attack, and place one card face down," He nodded at Atem "Your move Atemu-san.”
Atem studied his hand, eye catching on Cat of the Ill-Omen, and Owner’s Seal, as well as the convenient Gold Sarcophagus, and Mound of the Bound Creator. All good to use his Token of Ra strategy, and Atem restrained his smirk from spreading, as he reached out to draw Swords of Revealing Light.
“I play Mound of the Bound Creator,” He tossed the card onto the table, “Which protects level ten or higher monsters from destruction by card effects, as well as giving additional damage if they’re destroyed-“
“I know!” Jounouchi waved a hand, “Go get your Light Monster.”
Atem raised an eyebrow – it was a Divine Monster you were meant to get – but he snagged the Winged Dragon of Ra regardless of Jounouchi’s ignorance, and placed it in his hand. He placed Owner’s Seal face down, “I lay one card face down, and,” Added Bicorn Re’em to the field sideways, “Summon Bicorn Re’em in defence mode, with that I end my turn.”
“Ugh,” Jounouchi eyed Bicorn distastefully, and drew his card, “Okay then!” He slapped it down, “I summon Gearfried the Iron Knight in Attack, and destroy Bicorn Re’em!” Atem added Bicorn to his Graveyard, “Aligator’s Sword then does 1500 damage to your Life Points Directly, ending my turn.”
Atem grabbed the piece of paper to the side, crossing out his previous LP count, and writing down the new one, “Well done,” He congratulated out of reflex.
Jounouchi grinned in response, “Just usual,” Atem raised both eyebrows, looking at The Winged Dragon of Ra, shifting his hand thoughtfully, before drawing the Giant Soldier of Stone.
“Alright,” Atem set Swords of Revealing Light face-down, before adding Giant Soldier of Stone in the defensive position, “I set another card face-down, and summon Giant Soldier of Stone. Your Move.”
“I tribute Gearfried, and Aligator’s Sword to summon Gildford the Lightning in attack, then I activate Kunai with Chain to increase Gildford’s attack points to 3200,” Jounouchi poked Giant Soldier of Stone, “I attack your stony soldier, and end my turn.”
Atem had already put his monster into the graveyard, and gone for his next card. Heart of the Martyr! Perfect for combination with Revealing Light and Cat of the Ill-Omen. Had he looked up at Jounouchi, he would have noticed Yuugi studying the field with interest.
“I set one card face-down, and play the card I drew this turn, Heart of the Martyr,” Atem slapped the card down with a flourish, “This means any effects on the board apply to my own monsters.”
“You haven’t got any monsters,” Jounouchi pointed and Yuugi shushed him, as Atem reached forward to flick Swords of Revealing Light face-up.
“I then activate my Swords of Revealing Light, preventing any Monster Attacks for the next two turns.”
“Great,” Jounouchi grumbled, “I’ll need to wait until then to finish this – and I so wanted a four move duel, I draw-“
“I’m not finished!” Atem flicked Cat of Ill-Omen downwards on the board, “I place a Monster Card face-down in defence, however due to the effects of my swords, my monster reveals itself!” He turned the card over, “This activates my Cat of Ill-Omen’s special ability, allowing me to search my deck for any trap card,” Atem picked up his deck, rifling through it, and pulling out Nightmare Archfiend, and passed his deck to Jounouchi, “Please shuffle, whilst I place this card face-down also,” Jounouchi quickly did so before returning Atem’s deck, “Thank you, and your move.”
“Finally,” Jounouchi flipped the remaining card of the two set up in his first turn, “I activate Graceful Dice,” He plucked up the die, rolling it sharply onto the table, “Six! What luck!” Jounouchi tapped his Gildford the Lightning, “This further increases my Gildford’s Attack and Defense Points by 100 times the number I rolled, bringing him to 3900 and 2000 in total,” Jounouchi leaned back in his spot, “I might not be able to take you out this turn, but I can at least do it in style, hm?”
“Take me out?” Atem snorted, but leaned forward, “My move then,” Atem picked up Gazelle the Beast-King, absently adding it to his hand, “I activate Gold Sarcophagus,” He turned over the card, before adding it to the Graveyard, pulling Aegis of Gaia from his deck, “Please shuffle.”
Jounouchi did so and then handed the deck back, “There you go.”
“As this spellcard,” Atem gestured with Aegis of Gaia, “Was drawn this turn, I can play it without set-up and I now do so,” He showed the card, “My Life Points increase by 3000 for the duration of this turn,” Atem turned Nightmare Archfiends face-up, “I now summon Three Archfiend Tokens to your side of the battle, before claiming them back with Owner’s Seal,” Atem pulled the tokens from his deck, handing it once more to Jounouchi for shuffling, but put them immediately into the Graveyard.
“Hm?” Jounouchi blinked.
“Unfortunately this costs me 2400 Lifepoints, due to the special ability of Archfiend Token, but luckily I used Aegis of Gaia earlier,” Yuugi noted the Lifepoint change, “However, I tribute my Tokens anyway to summon,” And with this Atem reverently placed his God Card upon the table, his smirk glorious, eyes glittering daringly.
He recited, confidently and happily, the Hieratic Text needed for the God Card, almost glancing upwards to see if Ra would disapprove of his unsporting actions. Whatever it was that Ra did, The Sky God apparently had a lively sense of competition, and Atem continued undeterred.
“Due to The Winged Dragon of Ra’s special ability, his total Attack and Defense Points are the sum of my three tributes combined.”
“Aw come on,” Jounouchi looked at Yuugi, who peered at the card.
“Oh dear,” Yuugi laughed, “Jounouchi you’ve bitten off more than you can chew,” with that, Yuugi leaned back to watch the duel’s finish.
“You still can’t attack,” Jounouchi pointed out, eying Atem’s smug expression.
“No?” Atem arched an eyebrow primly, crossed his arms over his chest, “My Winged Dragon negates all special effects in the turn he is summoned, rendering my swords useless, as well as reducing Gilford the Lightning to his original stats, and I activate another of his effects-”
“How many effects does this chicken butt have!”
“About a dozen,” Yuugi supplied.
“I tribute 1000 LP,” Yuugi made no move to change the Lifepoint count, “To strike Gildford the Lightning directly,” Atem reached forward to pass Gildford back to Jounouchi, “And with that,” Jounouchi took his card, and Atem stretched to his full, perhaps not entirely impressive height, but his eyes were bright and his expression fearless, and his height didn’t matter, “I have given you your four move duel.”
Yuugi had waited to do Atem’s survey until the shop was empty, waving his friends out before turning back to Atem with a sunny expression, "Thanks for staying back," Scrambling for the clipboard again, Yuugi fussed with his pencil, "So, um, Atem-san? Would you consider shopping at Kame Game Shop in-" The pencil slid from Yuugi's grip, clattering on the floor, and immediately, Yuugi ducked down to retrieve it. The pencil had spun off under a shelf, and Atem crouched down to pry it out, "Oh, you don't-"
"I've got it," Atem gritted out, still scraping under the shelf for the pencil. A few moments later, he retreated triumphantly with the pencil in hand, "Here," He passed it to Yuugi with a grin, "And yes, I plan to shop here in the future."
"Thank you," Yuugi mumbled, faltering before moving to scratch on the clipboard, "So- did you enjoy the tournament?"
Settling on the floor, Atem lazily leaned back against a wall. With a streak of perfect victories, he could feel his pride buzzing in his chest like a hummingbird, "I did."
Crossing his legs, Yuugi righted the clipboard, "And the service?"
"Great," Atem replied automatically. Yuugi glanced at him over the top of the clipboard, "The set-up was also good. I've never been in this sort of tournament."
"It was a rated three to five," Yuugi offered helpfully, "DuelingNetwork ratings," He turned the clipboard round to show a logo bearing both the Kaiba Corporation insignia, and something declaring DuelingNetwork, "Kaiba-kun's trying to boost popularity of his ranking system - something about going international in a few months - so he sponsored our event."
"Ranking system?" Atem squinted at Yuugi, "I thought that was always something Illusion Industries handled."
Yuugi shook his head, "Not since almost a month ago. Pegasus and Kaiba have some kind of arrangement," He fidgeted with the clipboard, smiling at Atem uncertainly, "It kind of feels like dueling is changing a lot."
"Yeah," Atem folded his arms over his chest, feeling displaced in the changing world, "Seems like I can't keep up."
"Oh no way," Yuugi leaned forwards, hands resting on his crossed ankles to beam at Atem, “You’re really good,” Yuugi stumbled over the words, so quickly did he get them out, “Really good – I’ve never seen you in the tournaments though, you’re good enough for competitive level.”
“Mh,” Atem looked a touch sheepish, “I know – I probably shouldn’t have played so harshly against your friend.”
“Who knows,” Yuugi was still smiling widely at him, and Atem felt vaguely like a star had swung too close to him, all but cleaved him in two; he missed Yuugi, “Maybe Jounouchi-kun will learn not to underestimate a newcomer?”
“I doubt it,” Atem laughed, and Yuugi joined in recklessly, nevermind Atem shouldn’t have been so familiar about Jounouchi.
“Seriously though,” Yuugi restrained his laughter, and Atem missed his laugh, “Why don’t you play competitively? I bet you could beat me.”
“Oh no,” Atem waved a hand in front of his face, “I know I couldn’t.”
“Try me,” Yuugi made to reach for his deck, and Atem held both hands out placatingly in front of him.
“No I couldn’t,” Atem insisted, his laughter still spilling out between his ribs.
“I think you could,” Yuugi pointed out, beginning to set up a duel, and Atem felt as though he’d been plunged in ice, quickly reaching out to cover Yuugi’s hand insistently with his own.
“No, sorry,” Atem stared at Yuugi, at a loss for explanation, “I couldn’t,” He finished lamely, and Yuugi blinked in confusion, but withdrew his cards.
“Well, okay,” Yuugi looked disappointed, “Just so you know, I’m always open to play against someone as good as you,” Yuugi drew his knees up, hugging them, “You know in the survey,” He began after a moment, “When you said you’d definitely shop here, was that just getting the staff off your back?”
Atem shook his head, the ice melting until Atem could feel the smallest shiver in his hands, “No, no, this place is great.”
“Cool,” Yuugi smiled, this time quieter. Rather than a grin like sunlight, or some star burning into Atem’s awareness, this was starlight. A soft, cool smile, like a murmur of happiness. Atem had missed this smile most, and drank its light in gratefully, “I’d like that.”
“Same,” Atem murmured, practically basking at this point, and pulled his own knees up. He leant his head against his legs, arms wrapping around them. He shut his eyes, gently, definitely basking.
“It was nice to meet you,” Yuugi added, and Atem’s eyes slid open, and there, that had to go ruin it. Atem unwound himself, frowning, “Oh,” Yuugi blinked several times, “I’m sorry.”
“Sorry?” Atem raised both eyebrows this time.
“It’s getting pretty late and I’m keeping you even further,” Yuugi got to his feet gingerly, and offered his hand to Atem, “Come on.”
This had been how the day had began – Atem on the floor, Yuugi offering a hand towards him, and the parallel puzzled Atem. This time, he reached out to snag Yuugi’s hand, and allowed himself to be raised up.
“Thank you,” Atem murmured, cleared his voice and repeated it again as strongly as he could, “Thank you, I had fun today.”
Atem could have slept, he supposed, but he didn’t need to, and his head was buzzing. A low whine of it that prevented him from sleeping, so he wandered the city again. This time the Arcade was grey and silent when he walked by, and Atem sat down on the bench outside to drink matcha by himself.
“What are you doing, Atem,” He finally asked himself, staring down at the cooling tea in his hands, “You can’t avoid it forever,” He reprimanded himself, “Not that I’m avoiding it,” Atem added angrily, “It’s taken me weeks to get here, to have even an idea of what to do, to save up, research,” Now Atem was ferocious, “I’m not avoiding anything – I needed a break.”
With that, Atem threw back his head, and downed the turgid, cold tea with a grimace.