The Road to Paradise

Rated: M

Chapter Seven: Revealed

The morning news was always something that was on in the Kaiba Household in the morning. After Pegasus's sudden announcement of his new duelist technology and the release of the Rare Royal Persian theme cards, it was common to see it on, in the off chance he struck again.

Of course, as usual the morning news was mainly filled with the idle household chatter: announcements about the new daytime talk-show coming on and celebrity gossip took up the soundwaves of the dining room in the Kaiba mansion.

This morning was no different. Tucked away in the small, but elegant and cozy, informal dining room that played every role from breakfast nook to midnight snack time retreat sat Seto Kaiba, his usual cup of tea and simple toast coated in jam set out in front of him relatively untouched. The morning paper currently in his hands took up more of his attention than his morning meal. Two seats over sat Mokuba, happily munching on a bowl of cereal drowned in milk, an old comic book splayed out in front of him. Though neither one of them was paying any particular attention to the news that was currently droning on, the small flat screen mounted on the wall hummed away.

Kaiba's eyes drifted back-and-forth over the black and white print in front of him. Nothing of real note all things considered, at least as far as the brunet was concerned. A little bored, the CEO rolled his shoulders still stretching out his muscles. As he did so his paper dipped down and an empty seat across the table caught Kaiba's eye.

For a moment the CEO stared quietly, a little uncertain why that chair felt so interesting. After a moment, Kaiba's jaw clenched and he straightened his paper back out, his mind suddenly frantic to find something to take his attention. He could practically see a certain other youth sitting there, quietly eating breakfast along with him and Mokuba. Kaiba could hear his voice. Hell, he could still easily recall how the other youth felt.

The CEO's cheeks flushed and his grip on his paper tightened. He wasn't sure if what he was feeling was anger, frustration, or something else entirely.

"And now," The middle-aged blond on the TV chirped, smiling widely. "We have a special guest joining us. Introducing one of the most beautiful women I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, please welcome Industrial Illusions' very own Sahar Gilani!"

Kaiba let his newspaper drop a little bit to allow his steady eyes to peer over the top at the television screen. It used to be that bad news only seemed to follow after actually seeing Yugi or his dark counterpart. The lean CEO could only hope that that hadn't changed. If all it took now was a thought of the other youth, then he was in trouble.

The talk show crowd began a loud round of applause. From the left of the stage, the spokeswoman Kaiba had seen on TV as well as at the Expo walked onstage. This time, she was not in her normal Indian-inspired attire, this time just in a sleek, charcoal-grey women's suit, her attractive bust ruffled with wine-red lace and frill. Her long, reddish-orange hair rolled in perfect waves down her back, green eyes as bright as her smile. On her forehead was a red-jeweled bindi, and on her hands and wrists were several rings and bangles, carefully selected to match her outfit. Sahar and the TV hostess shook hands, bowing before having seats in their set-up chairs.

The blond hostess smiled to the TV, then to Sahar, who sat there perfectly poised, ankles crossed and hands folded in her lap. "It's a pleasure to have you here, Sahar."

"The pleasure is mine, Hanako-san," Sahar replied in turn, a small smile flickering on her face, before settling. Her response was pleasant, but it was obvious she was here to do her job… albeit with a smile.

Kaiba looked back down at his paper, though he was now intently listening to the morning news show.

"So! Let's get the conversation rolling. Tell me a little about yourself," The talk show host began. Typical, to get into personal questions first. Not that Kaiba truly understood this concept. It was odd really. When there was something bigger to discuss, why waste time with personal history or meaningless discussions about the weather or your favorite recipe? Of course sometimes a little background information was a good thing. It could possibly tell you who you were dealing with, but most of the time these shows had a tendency to get lost on the meaningless drivel.

"Well, as everyone knows, I work for Industrial Illusions, and I am currently the spokesperson for the newest addition to Duel Monsters: the Rare Royal Persian Collection," Sahar began. "It's a very important addition to Duel Monsters for me; it's an honor that Pegasus-san decided to show representation of my heritage in his world-renowned game."

"So you knew Crawford-san prior to being his spokeswoman?" The hostess inquired.

"Indeed I did," Sahar confirmed, nodding. "For two years, I've worked for Industrial Illusions as Lead Developer. If a card is banned from tournament, or if new cards or rules are created for Duel Monsters… you can be sure I've had my hand in it somewhere."

Kaiba's eyes narrowed a bit as he continued to listen, though he still kept the paper up so he didn't have to look at Pegasus's little second. The sight of her still left the older Kaiba a little bitter. She had been the person he saw when the announcement of the Expo had been made, and she had been present at the surprise of the new tech his staff had somehow missed all the warning signs for. In fact, she was probably every bit the symbol of bad news Yugi and his miserably irritating counterpart were. Where was this going to go?

"How fascinating! So you and Crawford-san are pretty close then," The hostess insinuated. Kaiba had to fight the urge to roll his eyes. Some press weren't happy unless they could talk about your relationship status. 'If there is a point to this interview, make it', the CEO thought irritably.

"He's a wonderful employer," Sahar answered, easily smoothing over the question.

The blond hostess let a flicker of a smile lift onto her face at the dodge, but she continued. "So, Sahar. Young, successful, very beautiful. What news do you have for us? We're very excited to have gotten an exclusive interview for the news you're unveiling."

Now this caught Kaiba's undivided attention. Finally the brunet folded his newspaper up and set it down on the fine dark wood dining table. The remote was within easy reach and the brunet reached out lazily, punching the volume up button a few times with a slender finger. Which was what finally got Mokuba's full attention. The smaller brother had been looking up from time to time but ultimately the comic had been winning out. Anything that got the eldest brothers attention was bound to be either really good or really bad.

"As am I." Sahar nodded her head, looking towards the audience and the camera. "Industrial Illusions is very excited and proud to announce…" And Sahar lifted her hand, showing off the emerald-jeweled Duelist Ring upon her finger.

"...The Road to Paradise Duelist Tournament!"

There was some cheering from the TV crowd. Though, really, only Pegasus would come up with such a name for a Duel Monsters tournament.

Kaiba's eyes darkened. More publicity on those infernal rings, not that the CEO hadn't been expecting some tournament. It was only a matter of time. Despite having his own instinct serving as forewarning, the announcement left a bad taste in the brunette's mouth.

The CEO's stomach churned a bit as the anxiety he had managed keep rather well hidden kicked back up. He needed to find out more about these new rings, but so far his own development team had been unable to come up with anything. They shouldn't work, but they did. Unless Pegasus had managed to fake every demonstration of the damn things ever done. But soon as people starting buying them and using them the truth would come out. Not even Pegasus would be dumb enough to do that.

"Industrial Illusions is sponsoring this first tournament to test out and show off the fun and thrill of battling utilizing our new technology. Anyone who has a deck and a Duelist Ring will be allowed to participate… however! Only a total of twelve from the tournament will be guaranteed an invitation to participate in the most lavish and grand tournament Domino City has ever seen…

"With a grand prize of five-hundred million yen… and the coveted title as Duel Monsters Champion and King of Games!"

Kaiba actually stood up at this claim, his fist hitting the table without him noticing. That wasn't Industrial Illusions' to give away, and if anyone took that title it would be him. No one else.

Next to the elder Kaiba, Mokuba glanced over a little nervously. It was never fun seeing something get under his older brothers skin. In fact, the younger boy thought quietly, his brother really didn't need anything else getting to him. He had too much to think about as it was.

The TV crowd let out another cheer. The TV hostess clapped excitedly, her eyes lit up as she continued the interview. "We're all excited to see another tournament in the works! Are you planning on participating?"

Sahar shook her head.

"What! Why not?" The hostess pressed. "Surely, as a Game Developer you have some knowledge and skill at playing Duel Monsters!"

"I enjoy playing the game," Sahar replied. "Duel Monsters is my favorite game on the market. I may enter a few duels, but I'm more interested in watching the final battle between Kaiba Seto and Mutou Yugi."

Kaiba's other hand slammed down onto the table causing the tableware to shake and Mokuba to jump, Seto's expression now clearly angry. How could she be so smug? So certain he would take part in this silly affair? Yes, he relished the chance to publicly take the title from Yugi, no, Yami. But here this woman who didn't really know him was practically declaring he would be in the tournament!

The CEO's jaw clenched. He had half a mind not to sign up just to prove her, and probably Pegasus, wrong...

"Ah!" The hostess proclaimed. "You seem rather confident that those two will be the final battlers!"

And Sahar smiled. "Oh, there's no doubt," She stated. "Their decks and strategies are impressive, and there are few men who can woo a crowd like those two." Her voice was teasing. "I won't be the only woman watching, I'm sure."

"Who do you favor to win?" The hostess asked.

There was a pause. Sahar looked to the ceiling of the studio, contemplating her answer. She looked back towards the hostess.

"That a potentially career-ruining question," Sahar commented, folding her fingers delicately against her knee. Kaiba glared at the screen, silently warning the business woman to walk away from that question. "But it's also very hard. But there can only be one winner, I suppose. So if I had to choose…

"...I hope Kaiba Seto annihilates Mutou Yugi."

There were screams and cheers from the crowd. Most of them were women, so there were few boos or jeers at the mentions of him winning against Yugi. After all, Kaiba Seto was Domino City's number one eligible bachelor. Who was going to contest against him finally claiming that title he had been coveting? The hostess was smiling wide towards her audience, laughing happily. Sahar's green eyes were twinkling with her own humor… but otherwise, she remained silent.

For a second Kaiba's eyes went a little wide. The answer had surprised him in more than one way. For starters that was generally a question anyone avoided. Second of all the woman worked for Pegasus and surely his preferred stance would be that Kaiba lose. Or maybe not. He shook his head, uncertain what to really think about the response. Quickly the shock wore off and the elder brother's initial reactions to news were winning back over.

"So you favor Kaiba-san," The hostess replied, smiling. "Though really, who in this room doesn't?" Though, she didn't get into pestering Sahar about him. The statement was enough. "Thank you Sahar, for joining us. You are a wonderful, beautiful woman, and I hope you find your own King of Games, if you know what I mean!"

The two women laughed, Sahar shaking hands with her as she walked off the stage, waving. The morning news made another reiteration about the Road to Paradise Tournament, before the credits began to roll.

Kaiba reached back over and snatched up the remote, turning the TV off in one swift motion. Mokuba chewed his food slowly and quietly trying to decide if it was safe to speak yet. His older brother would never truly lash out at him and hurt him but still...Kaiba always regretted it even if he just verbally snapped at Mokuba.

After a few seconds, the elder Kaiba's stance sagged a bit, his shoulders dropping from their tensed state and his head bowing. "Nii-sama?" Mokuba finally hazarded.

"Get your school bag," Seto sighed, "I don't want you to be late."

Mokuba frowned. This was his brother dodging and the younger boy knew it. But he also knew better than to push too much too soon. So he did the only thing he could do. He listened to his older brother and guardian. He finished off the last of his breakfast greedily, snatched up his comic, and ran off to grab his book bag leaving Kaiba standing silently in the small dining room.

The day had been long. No, short. Actually Kaiba wasn't sure how he would describe it. The morning had started out quiet and slow until that tournament announcement by Pegasus's little agent of public relations and game developer.

From that point his morning seemed to take off and disappear into a haze of thoughts and annoyances. At some point just before lunch the CEO's day came grinding to a near stand still. Every class and lecture stretched on for hours. Even his lunch had taken an eternity and he had tried to whittle it away working, which had sort of worked.

Classes had preceded and teachers droned on. Not that Kaiba could even recall what the teachers had talked about, but he was pretty sure he had been writing down notes. At least he knew that he had managed to scribble down homework assignments and test reminders.

And now it came to the last class of the day and Seto Kaiba was done caring. His slender hand held his pencil loosely, the tip very gently tapping the pad of paper out on his desk in front of him. Not that anyone would notice the CEO tapping his pencil. The tip was barely making contact before he snapped it right back into an upward motion. He hated the sound of tapping pencils, but the motion was somehow soothing. Meaningless and it gained him nothing in the end, but...soothing.

Absolutely not paying attention, Kaiba somehow managed to keep his eyes on the board at the front of the class though that was about as close to participating in the lesson as he was going to get. He wasn't even certain the teacher was still talking, though she was clearly still moving around at the front, scrawling on the board and pointing to various things she had already written down.

Slowly, his dark blue orbs drifted away from the board and to the window, his eyes ever so slightly glazing over. Normally he was much better at faking attention but he just didn't have it left in him anymore.

The brunet's free hand came up from his desk and he started to rest his chin on it. For once in his life he was looking like a normal high school student. Bored and trapped. It was probably a good thing he tucked himself away at the back of the class.

Kaiba let out a long slow breath, his thoughts slipping from utter boredom to the borders of dreaming. After a few seconds his eyes started to drift close and the CEO swore he could feel a gentle breeze over his skin, like he was sitting up on the roof.

Now there was an idea. The rooftop. At the right times during the school year that was the best retreat this school had to offer. It was open and quiet. A place the brunet could disappear to and do his own thing without worrying about anyone bothering him.

Of course there had been that one time, back before almost all of this had started, right after the museum incident. Yugi...Yami, had found him up there quietly reading. The young businessmen could still see Yami standing there. Imposing. Strong. Determined. And he had opted not to give the other youth the time of day if he could help it.

In the end he hadn't been able to help it. The whole thing had turned into a confrontation. A true confrontation. One that had practically almost turned into a physical fight. Kaiba could feel the proximity, could feel his hands on the other youth, clenching to fabric that wasn't his own uniform.

Blue eyes opened slowly, still gazing distantly out the window. Kaiba could still feel the tension, the heat. He let out another long breath and he felt himself further relax, his eyes becoming heavily lidded, not quite open but not all the way closed.

The CEO had slammed Yami into the wall back then, but given their other run-ins things could have gone very different. It was here the memory started to deviate.

Instead of shoving the other youth, Kaiba could feel himself lean in, warmth closing in over his entire front. Gentle breaths caressing his lips and cheeks. He took another long slow breath, and then he could feel something else. A soft warm pressure against his lips.

Kaiba almost sighed as his eyes drifted the rest of the way back closed. The touch of Yami's lips against his was a clear memory. As was the taste of the other youth's mouth, and the warm pleasure of their tongues intertwining.

Soon the gentle heat was replaced by an even warmer sensation he could still clearly recall. Skin against skin. A warm beautiful sensation that made Kaiba's skin tingle.

Suddenly Kaiba started to reel away from where his mind was very quickly going. With a sharp breath he snapped his eyes open and took a moment to still his heart. Quickly he brought his free hand down and shifted to sit more upright in his chair.

Was someone standing next to him?


Right on cue, a smiling Yugi Mutou stood beside him, holding onto a clipboard that he had been walking around with, and a pen. The short boy was looking expectantly at Kaiba, his violet eyes attentive and expression friendly.

The taller duelist quickly pulled his eyes away from the window to the small youth standing next to him. And without warning, Kaiba flushed. Yugi brought Yami instantly back to the forefront of the CEO's mind.

With a single blink of an eye Kaiba got his composure back together. "What do you want?" He asked a little moodily, leaning back in his seat and crossing his arms over his chest.

"You need to sign up for one of the festival committees," Yugi explained patiently. If Kaiba was asking then it only confirmed his suspicions: the CEO had been zoning out majorly and if Yugi got to have three guess to why, well. Crown him the King of Games. The smaller duelist held out the clipboard, which held a scribbling of different names on it. Surprisingly enough, Anzu, Honda, and Jou were all on different teams… and Yugi's name was currently absent from the list. "Did you want any suggestions, Kaiba-kun?"

Kaiba practically scowled at the other youth. "Festival committees? You're telling me they want us to sign up for something on top of being sucked into doing something as a class?" the CEO practically rolled his eyes as he asked.

No way. He didn't have time for extra commitments at the school. He cared for a younger brother, went to school, ran a household, and ran an entire company. No, he didn't need any more commitments.

Mind made up, the brunet looked away from Yugi, muscles not even twitching as any sort of indication he had remotely considered reaching for the clipboard. Yugi glanced down to the clipboard momentarily, before looking up at him. Normally, this was where the small boy would attempt to persuade Kaiba otherwise. Usually Yugi would add in something along the lines of "it would be fun" or "this is a great way to make friends"... but not this time.

"Well," Yugi trailed off, and he turned to clipboard to himself, taking the pen and scribbling something down. "If you insist…" There were a few seconds of the ballpoint scratching against the paper and clipboard, and with a smile (and a wise step back), Yugi held up the sign-up sheet. "Kaiba-kun and I are now on the Decoration Committee!"

Kaiba turned his attention back to Yugi and shot up out of his seat, reaching for the clipboard. "Hold it. Give me that," the brunet growled as he tried snatching the clipboard away fromt the smaller duelist. Yugi was already backing up between the desks, smiling as he held the clipboard behind his back.

"It will be fun!" There it was. The smaller boy laughed. "Maybe if Kaiba-kun was paying better attention he could have been on another committee!"

"That has nothing to do with it," Kaiba glowered, practically baring his teeth, "I have enough commitments in my life. Take my name off that list."

"Not happening," Yugi stated firmly, holding the clipboard back up. There in the lower-left corner was Kaiba and Yugi's name, scratched in the boy's childish handwriting. Even though Kaiba himself hadn't signed up, no one would question Yugi having done so "for him".

Loud and clear the bell chimed out the end of classes for the day and the room filled with the noises of scraping chairs, shuffling papers, and rustling book bags. The room had already contained conversation but quickly the gentle murmur surged as students started to make the push for the door.

Hurriedly the teacher called out, "Don't forget everyone needs to sign up for a committee. Please do so by the end of the day tomorrow if you haven't already. Please also start thinking about any suggestions you might want to put forward for our room's theme for the festival. We will start planning by the end of the week."

No sooner had the teacher finished talking then voices of excited students drowned her out. Her time for the day was officially up. There was no quelling the masses now. Kaiba could only purse his lips as he continued to stare down Yugi, a long arm stretched out in a demanding gesture for the clipboard. Off to the side, Jou, Anzu, and Honda all looked towards Yugi expectantly, but upon seeing the imminent showdown between the two, Anzu and Honda began to head off. Jou looked as if he wanted to stick around for his friend, but Honda was quick to drag the blond out, albeit his protests. Even the teacher seemed to reconsider her position, and the woman picked up her belongings, scurrying out of the room, stating quickly that Yugi could drop off the sign-up sheet with her tomorrow.

Yugi hardly noticed everyone was gone, but the classroom grew quiet as he ignored Kaiba's demanding gesture, lowering the clipboard down to his face, obscuring him momentarily from view. He continued stepping backwards until he was at the front of the classroom. He leaned against the teacher's desk, Kaiba having followed him part way up looking anything but amused. "I think Kaiba-kun will be great at decorating! Besides…-"

And Yugi's voice seemed to change.

"...You ought to be more involved with your peers… Kaiba." And when the clipboard was moved to the side, a pair of wine-red eyes stared back. A small smirk lit up Yami's face.

Kaiba's breath hitched at hearing Yami's voice and it near about stopped when he found himself looking straight into those unusual, yet familiar, eyes. Without noticing, the CEO took a short step back. Seeing Yami...It was almost too much. After Kaibaland, the incident in his room, and now that horrible dream that was half some fantasy he never wanted, half nightmare. None of it had been resolved and Kaiba wasn't sure he ever wanted to discuss it all. Where could they even start?

Kaiba's eyes hardened as he fought to keep his own uncertain emotions under control as well as keep himself looking collected visually. This was easy. They weren't going to talk about it. Besides. They technically had. It had turned to a fight and ended with him getting hit and then ditched.

"What would you know of it?" Kaiba shot back, fighting the urge to look away. He won against that urge but he hadn't managed to stop a flush from creeping up onto his pale cheeks.

Yami didn't miss the tinting of Kaiba's skin.

"I know a lot about you," Yami continued, and he reached down, pulling the sign-up sheet off of the clipboard, dropping the wooden board onto the desk. "...While Yugi's eyes and spirit wander the earth… I watch from the shadows." He spared a glance at the list. Kaiba Seto. Yugi Mutou. He held up the list for Kaiba to see. "Are you so eager to be removed from this list?"

"If you know so much, then you know I don't have the time," the words were steady but something lingered behind Kaiba's eyes. Discomfort? Ever so slightly the taller young man shifted his weight as if he was ready for a retreat. Something else Kaiba hadn't entirely meant to do. He wanted to stand his ground but he needed to leave. At least there was a small part of him that believed he needed to get out of there. The other part of him kept urging him to stay.

Yami's smirk remained, and he waved the paper gently towards the CEO. The sleeve of his school uniform slipped down, and underneath the fabric, his usually soft skin was plastered with bandaids-a flaw, in the usual impeccable appearance that made up the ancient spirit. One of the bandage's adhesive sides having come loose, and underneath was displayed an angry red scratch that tore across Yami's wrist. "If you have time to attend school, then you have time for a school affair."

Kaiba's sharp eyes honed in on the bandages, the spirit's words falling by the wayside and upon deaf ears. At first Kaiba took a hesitant step forward, his eyes darkening in that usual way that indicated something had angered or upset him.

The CEO gritted his teeth, his mind flashing back to the dream he had last night. The one that had started with Yami being attacked by some deranged little bird. As far as he had known, the other young man hadn't had those scratches last he saw.

He took another step forward and then another, easily closing the distance between he and the King of Games. Before he could stop himself, the tall brunet had reached Yami and instantly grabbed the other duelist's arm, pulling it up so the hem of the jacket sleeve pulled away to reveal the bandages and marks. Yami's eyes widened as his arm was held into the air, Kaiba glaring down the scratches on his arm as the Pharaoh clutched the sign-up sheet tight.

"What is-" Kaiba started out almost angrily, his words dying out as if he was still trying to process what he was seeing. "How did you get these?" the brunet finally settled on, his expression becoming a mix of anger and confusion.

'Kaiba-kun looks upset,' Yugi commented in the back of Yami's head, and his remark killed the retort that had started to rise into the Pharaoh's throat. Why does it matter to you? However, the reply now lay dead upon the ground. Yami's eyes were focused on Kaiba's face, taking in that strange expression and confused words. Was he…

...Worried.. about him?

"A bird," Yami finally relented, Kaiba's eyes going wide as his mind now shot back to the beginning of that dream he had had, "...It was a bird that had gotten trapped in the house. A magpie." Vivid. Stark black-and-white.

Its eyes had stared back.

Kaiba's hand was practically trembling, but he still held firmly onto Yami's injured arm. His anger melted somewhat as his expression shifted to that of disbelief. It wasn't possible. He dreamed of Yami getting attacked by a magpie and he had been attacked...It just...things didn't happen like that.

The CEO swallowed hard and stepped back, not letting go of Yami's arm as if he had forgotten he was still holding it. Yami didn't make a noise, allowing himself to be pulled across the floor. Kaiba's eyes fell from the marks and he instantly was back to reliving that dream, flashes of the bird from his window and the one from the true nightmare section mixing in. Wine-red eyes, glittering gold, the smell of musk and incense… swallowed by darkness.

Kaiba stopped moving backwards, the backs of his legs tapping against one of the desks in the first row. Yami's feet moved with him, halting only when Kaiba stopped moving. He wanted to pull away, but the brunet's stunned expression and off movements kept the King silent. Wincing, Kaiba opened his eyes slowly, keeping his vision locked on the floor. His mind was waring between two sides. One half was attempting to drag him back into the nightmare, fear, pain, and anger threatening to overwhelm him. The other half was pulling him towards the earlier part of the dream. A warm heat grew in his chest, fighting off the cold of darkness that felt so deeply rooted inside of him.

Slowly the CEO felt himself pulled towards the warmth, the feeling of skin against his hand as he had started to let go of Yami's arm only to have his hand tighten back up on the other youth's hand, crumpling the sign-up sheet until it fell to the ground. A lifeline in the dark and beacon cutting through the panic. Kaiba's slender fingers were like ice, but even so, as the brunet took hold of Yami's hand…

Yami's own fingers laced with his. The ancient spirit's eyes closed, his own body moving into Kaiba, taking a step into the taller man. This…

...The Road to Paradise…

Yami's eyes opened. Kaiba's hand felt cold against his own hot palm. He glanced to their fingers and hands laced together, bound by some invisible thread. They were always like this… pushing and pulling at each other, constantly sparking rivalry and discord, and yet, it was moments like this…

As Yami stepped in closer, Kaiba started to lean back in, bringing them closer together. The proximity, the heat. It felt so right. And Kaiba needed it.

Once they were a little closer, Kaiba brought his eyes up from the floor but they didn't linger on Yami's face for long. The reincarnated priest's eyes closed just as the Pharaoh's had. Then, without thinking, without hesitation, Kaiba bent down just enough to bring their lips together. Yami's chin tilted upwards to meet him halfway.

At first it was just a gentle brushing of lips, a close proximity that brought about the mingling of hitched breaths. Then it was a solid touch, their lips sliding over each others easily like they were made to fit together.

Kaiba kissed the Pharaoh with unrivaled eagerness, pulling ever-so-slightly at the other youth's bottom lip. Yami felt his heart flutter in his chest, quick and fleeting, almost painful. His mouth opened, pressing his lips against Kaiba to allow the other man in.

Accepting the invitation, Kaiba deftly slipped his tongue into the other duel champion's mouth. A careful sigh, like he had been holding his breath, escaped Kaiba. All the pain, fear, and coldness that had been gripping at him internally from the thoughts of the nightmare were slowly melting.

Experimentally, Kaiba ran his tongue over Yami's, the CEO relishing in the taste he hadn't realized he'd missed. A little more hungrily he pressed further in, attempting to bring the two closer together a strong arm starting to find it's way around Yami's waist. Getting a little bolder, he started to explore the other youth's mouth, mapping it out with his own. Yami hummed into the brunet's mouth, his hands sliding to Kaiba's chest, fingertips petting the fabric of his rival's uniform, down his stomach.

At the spirit's gentle touch, Kaiba let out his own stifled moan, a low growl of noise from deep within his throat. It was a sound of simple pleasure and an encouragement for more.

Unwilling to stay relatively inactive, Kaiba let his hands start to run over Yami's arms, scrunching up the fabric as he added pressure to the motions. Soon he was pulling at Yami, pressing their bodies together, the minuscule distance left between them too much.

Still it wasn't enough. Kaiba's hand slipped up Yami's arms one more time and then up around the shoulders. A gentle heat greeted Kaiba's wandering hands as he passed the jacket's collar and he was drawn to the inside of Yami's school jacket.

Quickly Kaiba leaned back just enough to grant room for his hands to start working at the jacket buttons. The brunet's legs pressed firmly against the desk behind him and he had to drop his weight down onto the desk or risk just falling over it. All the while, the CEO kept his lips greedily locked with the other champion's. Yami shrugged his shoulder a bit, helping the man slide off his jacket. The fabric tumbled to the ground, easily forgotten. The Sennen Puzzle followed soon after, landing atop the fabric of his uniform blazer. Yami's own hand came up and undid the buttons of the white school-issued shirt he was wearing, his soft skin underneath beginning to come into view.

Steadily growing warm, and getting frustrated with his own school jacket, Kaiba reached roughly up and started working the buttons, the garment quickly falling open. Yami shrugged his own shirt down his shoulders, the fabric clinging to his elbows. His chest and with it, soft, pert nipples came into view. Yami finally pulled away from the kiss, only to glimpse at the other man, eyes roaming over Kaiba's handsome face. As Kaiba's own shirt began to open up, Yami's expression turned devious, a smile rising up onto his features as if receiving some sort of tribute.

He couldn't remain stagnant, even if watching Kaiba was interesting. Yami's hands moved onto Kaiba's thighs since the brunet was sitting. The CEO broke the kiss momentarily and only long enough to take in a sharp breath, the hands on his thigh an almost intoxicating sensation. Yami's fingers slid tantalizingly up his rival's legs before pausing just at his waistband. The pharaoh wasted no time in undoing the button, his slender fingers grasping hold of Kaiba's zipper. The noise of him unzipping the CEO seemed to echo in the empty classroom. The pharaoh slipped his fingers into the new opening, fingertips toying with the fabric of Kaiba's boxers, rubbing threateningly against his rival's sex that lay hidden underneath his clothes.

Kaiba couldn't fight it anymore. He once again broke off the kiss, his breaths growing quicker and heavier. He leaned his head forward and buried his face in the crook of Yami's exposed neck, his breathing coming in hot waves over the exposed skin. Letting out another quiet moan, the CEO kissed at the pharaoh's neck and followed it up with a quick nip, the other youth's scent becoming enthralling. Yami tilted his chin up as Kaiba's lips hit his neck, letting out a faint moan… and his name. "...Kaiba…"

Suddenly Kaiba jerked away from Yami, slamming against the desk as the sound of the classroom door sliding open broke the gentle chorus of their breathing and soft noises. Eyes wide, the CEO's attention snapped to the sliding door, his hand quickly pushing away Yami's as he attempted to hurriedly re-zip and button his pants. The Pharaoh looked bewildered at first, wondering why the brunet was so quickly adjusting himself… and his own curiosity had him glancing towards the door.

But Kaiba wasn't fast enough, the door sliding open just as he fastened the button to his pants. Sure he had his pants back on right, but his shirt was still open and his jacket askew. The desk behind him was clearly shoved out of place. Then there was Yami. His jacket was completely gone and his shirt wide open. There was really no other explanation for this other than they had been up to something they shouldn't have been.

The door finished sliding open, a small girl stepping through. She had long dark hair and deep brown eyes; Irika.

Irika made her way through the door and froze, her eyes first landing on Yami, causing confusion to envelope her features. She clearly realized it wasn't Yugi standing there but someone else. Her lips started to move as if she was going to say something but then the movement stopped as her eyes landed on Kaiba.

The smaller girl's eyes went wide, a slight shine kicking in as if she was on the verge of tears. "Kaiba-kun", she managed to say just over a whisper. It couldn't be. And this other man...He clearly wasn't Yugi.

Bringing a hand to her mouth she kept herself from doing anything more than take in a quick, hurt breath. Only a few seconds passed, but it felt like an eternity. Without warning Irika took off with a fluttering of her skirts, her school bag smacking into the doorway as she made her escape. Somehow she managed to give the door a bit of a nudge on her way out with one hand so that it ghosted shut after she was out of view.

Kaiba and Yami stood there quietly for a moment, blue eyes lingering on the open door way, Kaiba's hands still quickly working on his shirt and jacket while the Pharaoh's own face remained passive. A slight wave of relief washed over the CEO as he thought about who had walked in. Irika was too quiet and timid to say or do anything. The girl lacked the backbone to try and start anything.

That initial thought out of the way, the brunet turned his attention back to his rival, his eyes growing dark as he started thinking about where things had been going...again. Which was exactly where he didn't want things to go. Yami looked back at Kaiba, still standing with his shirt clinging at his arms. His eyes were locked on the taller man intently…

...But he said nothing.

Roughly, Kaiba straightened his jacket, tugging at the sleeves to flatten it out. Without a word, the brunet turned on his heel and walked back to his desk at the back of the room seeking his school bag. Yami began to slowly shrug the white button-up back on, bending down to recover Yugi's jacket and the Sennen Puzzle. As he did, he glanced to his wrists, staring at the bandages there that were falling off haphazardly. Shaking his head, the Pharaoh continued dressing, opting to ignore Kaiba and what just happened, even though…

They'd done it again. One moment at each other's throats, and the next, lips on throats… and… Yami felt a shiver go through him as he recalled just seconds ago, Kaiba's lips pressing against his skin, drawing out faint moans that had begun to echo in the classroom. He swallowed thickly, a hand snatching up a crumpled piece of paper from the ground: the sign-up sheet.

Yami rose fully, and it seemed as if in seconds he was composed once more, Sennen item on his neck and Yugi's jacket tossed across his shoulders in a Devil-may-care fashion. He crammed the sign-up sheet in his back pocket. His thoughts were a mess… why couldn't he and Kaiba figure this out? What was wrong with them…?

Eyes closed in an impetuous manner, Yami tossed back the hem of the jacket so it fluttered in the air, turning away at the same time and heading for the door. He snagged Yugi's satchel off of the boy's desk, sliding it off casually and tossing it against his shoulder. He walked to the door, pausing by it for a moment.

That moment felt more like an eternity. Still, Yami's feet remained glued to the spot, and he swore he could hear the clock in the room ticking the seconds by, each one a heavy drum that beat against his brain. He and Kaiba, in some way, shape, or form, always ended up like this… constantly butting heads in combat, locked forever in eternal conflict… was that what the stone tablet he had seen in Domino Museum had been referring to? That he and Kaiba would forever be trapped in a never-ending cycle of tearing into each other-what could be gained? What were they both fighting for… against? Forever bound by a red string of fate…

Would they pull, and pull… until they had both unraveled each other and bared their souls?

Kaiba's soul…

...What would it look like, if they ever came to such a point? Their love-and-hate nature would have to come to a resolution; there would be no other option. Would he be ultimately drawn to it?

Or would he turn the other cheek, and shy away in fear at the monster that potentially lay beneath?

Better yet… if their nature was so conflicted… would a monster inside of him rise to face the challenge? Could their eternal battle ever truly come to an end? Why did that hurt to think about…?

But one thing was for sure; in the here and now, each of their battles had ended in a reluctant standstill. In these recent occasions, the two had looked the other way, opting to withdraw and come back the next time, stronger. And stronger they were indeed: each clash of words was more biting, each crash of their bodies became more and more heated. They would ruin each other this way, eventually. Kaiba hadn't seemed worried about the girl who had wandered in, so he wouldn't, either. However…

He was tired of running away. He was sick of ignoring it, ill of bringing it up only for their conversation to dissolve into lust before fizzling into nothingness. His heart, his soul, felt empty. That's why Yami's feet were still planted to the floor though it was only seconds later, thoughts flying through his head faster than the speed of light. While trapped in Yugi's time, running around almost aimlessly in a pathetic attempt to find out who he really was and obtain his memories, he had created them. He had found Kaiba, or Kaiba had found him; who knew what it was anymore. They had been locked together from the moment their eyes met. Every encounter had sent a wave of excitement through him, every challenge met with exuberance, eager and willing to accept the call of the one person who knew how to push him to his very limits. In that regard, even though Kaiba chased after his title as King of Games, Yami had followed him back dutifully, chasing him from his time… to this one. But now, now…

He didn't want Kaiba to chase him for his title. He wanted…

'Chase me… chase after me!' Yami's own voice echoed in his head, and while he could feel Yugi's presence, his partner remained silent. That's why he stood there. To see if Kaiba would reach his hand out to him… and follow…

If he would pull once more upon that thin thread that kept them bound together…

...But when he didn't, when Yami was only met with silence, the clock ticking, the noise of the few remaining students in the halls dying down to a dull buzz…

Yami slid the door open, and the Pharaoh exited without a word, head held high.

Kaiba, while Yami stood frozen by thought, took the time to straighten out his uniform the rest of the way, bringing his usual level of perfection. As he heard the door sliding back over he glanced over just long enough to see Yami's retreating form. His expression stayed neutral though his stomach twisted a bit.

Steadily, the CEO reached down for his school bag, picked it up, and turned smartly in place, heading for the door. His school day was over and done with. Now for work. Actual work.

8:45 pm.

Yami's elbow leaned against the counter by the cash register, staring at the clock on the wall that hung over the collection of Duel Monsters figurines, willing it to move. He had spent the better half of his 4-hour shift restocking and helping out a few collectors with pricing… he had even gotten to demo a 3-D puzzle that buzzed if you didn't solve it in time (to which the teenagers from the local private school had watched with awe as Yami's hands flew across the spherical game). But as it neared closing time, the Pharaoh found himself bored. It wasn't that he hated the game shop or anything, but…

It feels as if I were made to do greater things… Yami thought to himself, eyes rolling over the displays in the shop. Kaiba was running a multi-billion yen company, and here he was slaving over box cutters and wearing aprons. He wondered if it was fun. Kaiba always seemed busy, but it must have kept his mind churning and everything up to date. Date…

It would be nice to…

"A date with Kaiba Seto…" Yami mused aloud, raising from the counter. He reached back, taking off the apron and beginning to drape it on the counter. He stretched a bit, hands on his hips as he looked around the game shop. That would be an affair for certain, he could see it now. Both of them staring across each other at a restaurant, candles lit, both dressed up as their intense gazes met, and…

'Game start!' And daydream-Yami and Kaiba suddenly rose from the table, both slamming down their decks and startling everyone in the expensive restaurant, the duel lacking holographs but gaining additional extras. Yami could already see Kaiba's chair knocked over as he proclaimed battle with his Blue Eyes, and Yami's foot on the table and chair to gain some sort of height advantage as he pointed towards the brunet, smile on his face as he summoned the Dark Magician-

The bell on the door rang, signaling someone was entering. Yami snapped out of his daydream (which was too bad, as Kaiba was about to proclaim as different kind of duel as he straddled Yami atop their table), glancing up to the clock. 8:52. Who was coming in so close to closing?

Was it…?

The person who stepped through the door did infact wear a school uniform and it was one worn for Yugi's school, but it was the girl's uniform, not the boys. So there was no mistaking the fact that it was not Kaiba. Yami let out a sigh when he spotted the pleats of the skirt, his eyes roaming up the rest of the body. Instead it was a small petite student. Just like earlier that afternoon... it was Irika.

Yami froze in place as she looked around the shop, her wide beautiful eyes slowly taking in her surroundings. It was a quaint little store really. Not all that fanciful but nice and comfortable with a warm atmosphere. Her shoulders seemed to relax a little as she took in all the gaming merchandise.

Then she looked toward the counter and her eyes widened at the sight of Yami, her shoulders tensing back up. "Oh," she whispered, a small hand flying up to her face and over her mouth. "I'm sorry," she whispered, a tear falling down her gently rounded cheek, "I was…

"Looking for…" Irika stumbled on the words as she tried to maintain some level of composure. Yami's eyes hadn't left her; he was in just as much shock as she was.

Without warning she whirled back around and fled the shop, the door bell chiming happily after her. A noise that was quite contrary to how Irika was currently feeling. Yami let out a noise, reaching his hand out to stop her… but she was already out the door. "Ah, wait…"

'Other Me!' Yugi suddenly called out, and a flash of light overtook Yami's vision; instantly Yugi was on his feet, taking off out the door-he slammed it shut and flipped the sign to CLOSED, running after Irika.

She hadn't gotten far. Yugi continued running, letting out a sigh as she easily caught up to her at the sidewalk. That distance seemed longer with his short legs… "Irika-san!" Yugi called out after her. "Hold up!"

Irika stopped and turned her head to look back, wiping away a few tears that were rolling down her face. "Yugi-kun", she greeted weakly. She brought her hand back down so that she could wrap her arms around herself. It was clear she was doing her best not to let the tears keep falling.

Yugi paused just steps away from her. The small boy's violet eyes looked over the girl's face. She was so hurt… "Irika-san," He stated again, wanting to make sure she was okay and on the same plane as him… he knew how if your thoughts wandered, you could wind up in different places. "I didn't… expect to see you at the Game Shop! Were you… looking for something?" Or someone, as it seemed to be… but Yugi had been convinced she had come to see Yami.

"No", Irika sniffled, "I wanted...I'm sorry. I don't know why I came here. I shouldn't have bothered you."

"Was it to see Othe-Brother! My brother?" Yugi recovered.

Yugi's classmate shook her head, a few more stray tears fighting their way free. "No," she mumbled out before a small sob got away from her.

"I guess…" Irika looked down to the pavement. "I wanted to talk to you. I had forgotten your...your brother worked some evenings here."

Irika was on the verge of fully crying. "I met..." she started before she had to stop to take a deep breath. After a few good breaths to steady herself she continued. "I saw your brother the school."

She paused to wipe her eyes again. "I just...I don't understand. Why didn't you just tell me?", the beautiful young student finally asked, her soulful eyes coming back up to look at Yugi squarely. Tears lingered along the bottom of her eyes, shimmering in the lamplight as they threatened to spill over.

"Tell you?" Yugi asked, and his voice hinted at genuine confusion, eyes wide. "...Tell you what?"

"Surely you know.", Irika insisted, rocking on her feet a bit as she looked away. "About your Yami-san and Kaiba-kun."

"I know a lot about them… they're always at each other's throats," Yugi supplied, but the look of confusion was still on his face. What was going on? "...What are you getting at, Irika-san? Did Kaiba-kun do something to you?"

Irika looked at Yugi with disbelief, the first expression other than hurt on her face. " honestly don't know about them," she said after a few seconds of quiet disbelief. "I'm sorry. I really shouldn't have come here."

Tears weld back up in her eyes and she turned away from Yugi so he wouldn't see her cry. Before the other small youth could say or do anything, Irika fled for the third time that day.

"Irika-san!" Yugi called out after her, but the girl was long gone. He considered going after her, but for some reason… he couldn't. It was as if he was glued in place. It was realization. Irika's tears, all of her questions about Yami, all of her desire to get close to Kaiba, she…

She liked him.

And that made Yami her rival… in a completely different realm than the one that consisted of card games.

Yugi knew Yami was in him, listening to everything, but the spirit was silent. It made him mad; for the first time he was honestly angry with his alter ego. That look the spirit held when Irika came in, the thoughts that had coursed through his head as Yugi sucked him back into the puzzle to take after his classmate…

He knew. Yami had known, but hadn't said anything… wasn't going to chase after her and give Irika the courtesy of knowing where he and Kaiba lay, or at the very least, make his feelings known to the girl, so she could properly respond back… not in tears…

Yugi didn't say anything to Yami. He looked off after the girl and where she had disappeared into the night. And for once in his life, as he turned and headed back to the shop…

He had become the Pharaoh's dark shadow.

Ta-da! A chapter from the two of us, as promised! We are slowly starting to get back to work on this fic, so we hope you will all stick with us!

Until next time,

Priest and Pharaoh

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