Author's note (9/27/14): This story is the product of a few conceits. What if Seto Kaiba confessed his love for Yami Yugi the night before the Ceremonial Duel? What if said confession of love caused Yami to refuse to go into the afterlife afterward? What if the gods, in their mercy, granted him a mortal body? And what if we looked at the situation on an autumn afternoon almost 25 years later, when the main characters are in their early forties?
It's an AU of sorts. While I mention the Duel Academy and Duel Runners for flavor, I am not very familiar with GX and 5D's, so don't expect this to fit into those continuities at all. The focus is on Kaiba and Yami's lives in the far future.
I gather up my courage to post this as we enter those golden days of early autumn I was envisioning when I began this story last Christmas Day. I hope there are some who enjoy this. It's an unusual story, for this site at least. While I mark it "complete", I do admit there are a few loose ends. That is because I have sequels planned. One is mostly complete, and it is from Atemu's (Yami's –they are the same person here) point of view. I believe I'll post the sequels separately, because they are so long and fairly self-contained.
I don't own Yu-Gi-Oh. I merely write stories about cartoon characters doing things you can't show on Saturday morning television. Thanks for reading!
Wednesdays with Yami
It was one of those golden days in early October that truly feels like autumn—none of summer's heat, none of winter's bite. A slight breeze in the air lightly rattled the leaves of the trees. I stepped off the train at Domino University Station. I probably should not have come out this way. I would think that every time I came out this way. And, yet, I kept finding myself drawn to this place.
The off-site meeting scheduled for that afternoon had been cancelled, but I was already on the train. The rest of the day was now clear. And it was Wednesday. He told me he would be free on Wednesdays.
It would be rude to visit without bringing something, and, while I generally don't pay attention to such niceties, I figured I would in this case. There was a liquor store just off campus that I had often frequented in my misspent youth as a business student. That would do quite nicely.
There's not much call around a college campus for a nice single-malt Scotch, but they had one, a dusty bottle in the back. Certainly not something to get wasted on…not that most people could afford that. I could, but that wasn't my goal, and would be a waste of such a fine libation. I had other carnal pleasures on my mind.
A few blocks away from the liquor store, I came to a rather non-descript wooden apartment building, ramshackle and unkempt, one of many such buildings that serve as low-rent housing for the students of good old Domino U.
When was the last time I had paid a visit here? I think it was August. I'd faked a doctor's appointment that day. Well, he is a doctor, and I felt better afterwards, so what was the harm?
I knocked on the door of Apartment #3, home to Dr. Atemu Mutou, head of the Near and Middle Eastern Studies Department and Domino University's premier expert on Egyptology.
However, he's just Yami to me.
It took long enough for him to answer the door that I was worried he wasn't home after all. Maybe this Wednesday he had somewhere to go, somewhere to be… I ran my fingers through my thick, brown hair, brushing it away from my forehead, but it quickly filled back in as my hand moved past.
The door opened. Dr. Mutou was a short, eccentric-looking man, 41 years old. His hair was in its usual wild black spikes tipped in magenta, with long, blond bangs framing his face. Silver streaks were now starting to appear amongst the black as he aged. His eyes were large, angular, and an unusual ruby color, and they sparkled with a boyish, playful charm. He was wearing his usual teaching outfit of dark tan chinos and black V-neck sweater with a white dress shirt underneath, open at the collar. A silver chain glittered at his neck, its pendant tucked down underneath his shirt.
He greeted me with a wide, rakish grin. "Seto Kaiba, to what do I owe this pleasure?" His voice was so deep it melted in my ears like molasses on my tongue, dark and sweet and sinfully overwhelming.
I removed my sunglasses. "Spare me the pleasantries, Yami. You know why I'm here." I smiled, and the expression felt strangely warm and achy in my cheeks. They say it takes seven muscles to smile. Perhaps those muscles had atrophied from disuse as of late.
"I see," he replied matter-of-factly. He knew exactly what I meant. He smiled warmly, a twinkle in his eyes. "Come in."
He took my trench coat. I slipped off my shoes and left my briefcase under the coat rack. I kept the paper bag from the liquor store in my hand.
The apartment was small and seemed even smaller for all the clutter. Bookshelves lined the walls and were filled with tomes of almost every shape and size imaginable, stacked in different directions. Just about every flat surface, be it table or countertop, was filled with something-piles of paper or dirty dishes or framed photographs or ancient artifacts. The golden sunlight of the day filtered in through partially closed beige curtains. A small gray cat was snoozing on the shabby brown sofa in the living room.
The air in the apartment hung heavily, smelling of cigarette smoke, dust, musty tomes, and ancient secrets.
He led me into his kitchen and dining area. This area was also its usual cluttered mess. "I was just having lunch," Yami said. "Would you like me to fix you something?"
"No, thanks." I had eaten at the train station, back when I thought I'd be making my presentation that afternoon to the manufacturer on the improvements we wanted to make to the Duel Runners for the next model year.
"Well, something to drink, at least? Cup of tea?"
"How about something a little stronger than tea?" I presented the paper bag to Yami. He took it in both hands.
"What do we have here?" His eyes lit up like a child's on Christmas morning as he slid the bottle out of its simple wrapping. He gasped and gave a low whistle. I knew he'd like it. You couldn't have wiped the smile off my face with a sandblaster.
"Scotch whisky? What is the occasion? It's not even your birthday for two more weeks…"
"I missed you," I said.
"Well," he quipped with a playful smirk, "you know I'm usually here." Indicating the Scotch, he asked, "Shall we?"
"By all means," I said.
He rushed around the kitchen like a spiky-haired elf, moving piles of papers and books off his kitchen table in a vain attempt to clear a spot for entertaining. I could see that his half-eaten lunch, a simple one of miso soup and rice, was at one end of the table, along with an open laptop computer, an overflowing ashtray, half a pack of cigarettes, and a Zippo lighter. The lighter had been a gift from me almost 20 years ago. It had his first name engraved into it using ancient Egyptian hieratic script. Sentimental old fool…he keeps everything.
He produced two short glasses and set them on the table. He closed the laptop and sat down with me. I opened the bottle and poured a glass for each of us.
He raised his glass. "To old friends."
I raised mine in return. "To cancelled meetings on Wednesday afternoons." That got another grin from him.
I took a sip. I felt the warmth immediately spread from my esophagus down into my stomach. The smell and taste filled my nose and mouth completely. Just as good as I thought it would be. I already felt myself begin to relax under its spell.
Yami held his glass under his nose for a moment, savoring the peaty aroma. He sipped and closed his eyes, sighing as if in ecstasy.
He tapped a cigarette out of the pack and held it between his delicate fingers. "Do you mind?"
"Go ahead." If it were anyone else, I would certainly mind, but this was Yami. As a non-smoker, it's always fascinated me to watch his little smoking rituals—the way he holds the cigarette between his fingers, the way he lights it while using the other hand to shield the flame from a non-existent puff of wind, the way the smoke curls from his lips like the breath of a dragon.
He makes smoking look as sexy as it did in old movies from the 1940's. If I smoked, I'd look a lot more like those old commercials of smoking chimpanzees from the 1980's.
So," Yami finally said as he reclined in his chair, "how's business?"
"Business is good," I said. "Our numbers are way above projection for this quarter, and it looks like the Duel Runners are a huge success."
If you're not aware, I am president and CEO of Kaiba Corporation, Japan's primary designer and manufacturer of premier gaming products. Our principal product is still the Duel Disk, originally designed by yours truly, and created to enhance the experience of Duel Monsters trading card games by projecting Solid Vision holographic images of the monsters on the cards. However, we've been developing some new products over the past few years, including the Duel Runners, meant to enhance trading card games even further by introducing the ability to have Turbo Duels while riding on special motorcycles.
"Good, good." Yami's booming voice filled the room. "I think they are breathing some much-needed life back into the game."
"How's the world of academia?" I asked.
Yami chuckled. "Not much changes around here, I'm afraid. The students do seem to get younger and younger each year."
"It's you who are getting older, Yami."
Yami chuckled again. "We are getting older, indeed." He examined my face, studying it intently with his striking crimson eyes. "You know," he teased, "you'd have crow's feet if you smiled more often."
"It's not a bad thing," Yami said quietly. "You have crinkles that form by your eyes when you smile. I'm surprised your wife has never mentioned it. It really looks quite charming." He looked up at me coyly.
If my wife mentioned anything about crinkles by my eyes, it would be in conjunction with "and I've scheduled you a Botox appointment on Tuesday at 2:00." She would not and does not find anything regarding my aging appearance "charming".
Perhaps this I why I would make these periodic visits to Dr. Mutou. It's refreshing to be in the company of someone who takes things in such stride. He's an old soul; he's lived and died before. That's not a metaphor, either.
"I'll be going back to Egypt at the end of March, though." He took a long sip of his drink. "We're doing some more excavation on Pharaoh Seto's burial chamber. Then, I'll be back in September to put together the major paper on our findings there."
Six months. He'd be gone for six months. I don't know why that bothered me so. It wasn't like he hadn't been gone before.
"So, if I get the shivers like someone's walking on my grave…" I said.
"That'll be me. I promise we'll be gentle." That little smirk again.
If you believe certain events of my adolescence, I am supposedly this Seto's reincarnation. Seto had been High Priest to Pharaoh Atemu, who was literally the man sitting across from me at the moment. Atemu sealed himself inside an artifact called the Millennium Puzzle in order to save the world from certain destruction, and Seto became pharaoh in his place.
Three thousand years later, a classmate of mine, Yugi Mutou, solved the Millennium Puzzle and began a series of unbelievable events involving the former pharaoh, now known as the Spirit of the Millennium Puzzle. Somewhere along the way, he got the nickname of Yami, since even he couldn't remember his own name at the time.
How my mother knew all that when she named me, I'll never know. It's probably just coincidence. I guess that's one thing I wish I could ask her.
"You know," Yami continued, "while I'm out there, you should come visit. Take a few weeks off, make a vacation of it. I could show you around, show you what we're doing. It'd be good for you to get away."
He'd never offered to have me visit him before. Perhaps he wanted to revisit some of those old memories from 25 years ago…sentimental old fool. It was tempting, but probably unwise, to get away from my life here.
"I don't know if I could," is what I told him. "How would I explain that, just taking off to Egypt for a couple of weeks? It's not as if Egypt is a major market for KaibaCorp."
A hurt look crossed his eyes for a millisecond. He narrowed his eyes. "Last time I looked, you're Seto Kaiba. Since when have you had to explain yourself to anyone?"
A jab, but I suppressed the sting. "What if my wife wanted to come along?"
Yami laughed. "Then there would be hope for you yet." He added, "Bring her along. Or do you not think I can behave myself?" He winked at me. Then, he refilled our empty glasses.
I took a swig. "It's not that simple, Yami."
"Nothing is with you," he replied dryly. "How is Anzu, by the way?"
I wasn't sure if I should tell him everything that had been going on. Yami could sometimes get a little…funny…over the subject of my wife.
I decided to sanitize the situation a bit. "She's doing well. She's volunteering as the head of the Welcome Wagon committee in our neighborhood, putting together baskets for new people who move in. She's also president of the Domino High School PTA and she's got the lead role in our neighborhood's community theater production of 'The Pajama Game'."
"Really?" This piqued his interest. "She's gone back to doing theater, huh? She's always been very talented. When is the show? I'd love to come out and see it."
He was right, Anzu has always been a talented performer, in both singing and dancing, even starring in some off-Broadway productions in New York before coming back to Domino to marry me.
"I don't remember the exact dates right now. I'll shoot you an email." He could go watch her in her show. She'd probably get a kick out of that, actually. I wasn't sure that I would be going.
Yami nodded. "Very good." He grinned. "Maybe I could get Yugi and Jounouchi to come along with me."
I gave some sort of derisive snort. Jounouchi. If he were going to come, I definitely would not be there.
"I don't know what you have against Jounouchi," clucked Yami.
I had something against Jounouchi, all right. "That mutt is not worth my time."
"You can't still have grudges from way back in high school, Seto. "
"I don't." Fortunately, Yami dropped the subject.
"How are your boys?" Yami asked.
Anzu and I have two sons, Ryuichi, who was 18, and Sora, who was 14. Ryuichi's a chip of the old block—tall, thin, brunet, handsome, sparkling blue eyes, very intelligent. Sora, on the other hand, was struggling with school, and, while he was tall for his age and had a thick mop of brown hair, he also had hazel eyes and a penchant for mischief. Well, it had grown to more than mischief—it was bordering on thuggery.
Ryuichi is doing wonderfully." I told my friend. "He's at the top of his class at Domino High, and captain of the soccer team."
"That's very good. He's a senior this year, correct?"
"Where does he plan to go to college? What does he plan to study?"
"Actually," I said, "he's thinking about coming here to Domino U to study business."
Yami's eyes lit up in delight.
I continued. "That way, he'd be close to home, and it would be easier for him to continue learning the business from under my wing as well. Academic learning is good, but there's a lot to be said for practical experience."
I didn't expect the professor to agree with me, but he just nodded. "If he chooses Domino U, I hope to see him in one of my classes. It would be a true pleasure. He's got a sharp mind, just like his father."
I had to chuckle a little bit at this. I suppose a student who is truly bright and interested in learning is a real treat for Dr. Mutou.
I sighed very audibly at the mention of my younger son. "Sora's been...a handful, I must admit." I sighed again. "His grades are terrible, and he's running with the wrong crowd at school, getting into trouble at every turn. If his practice test scores are any indication, he'll be lucky to make it into Rintama High, and it isn't as if any of the students there would likely be a better influence on him."
"That's too bad," said Yami softly. "Sora's always been...very different from you, hasn't he?"
"He's nothing like me," I admitted.
"Sometimes that happens," said Yami.
I sighed. "So they say."
"After all, you and Mokuba weren't so alike."
I winced at the mention of my little brother, even though it had been almost twenty years since he died.
I saw Yami's look of concern and waved it off. "It's OK to talk about him," I said. So many would no longer even mention his name. I'm not certain what they feared. The bruise on my heart was there regardless.
Who would ever have imagined that out of the four of us in my family of origin, I would live the longest? I'm the only one to make it past forty. Sometimes, I felt it a curse.
I continued. "Mokuba and I may not have looked much alike, but, personality-wise, we complemented each other more. When Ryuichi and Sora interact, if they ever do, it's like cats and dogs. I wish they got along better." I left the words "before it's too late" unsaid. Mokuba had only lived to age seventeen.
I finished the last swallow in my glass and looked towards the ceiling. I wondered if the only reason why Mokuba and I were so close growing up is that, being orphaned at such a young age, all we had was each other. Is that what it truly took?
Of course, given recent events, another possible reason Ryuichi and Sora didn't get along had come to light…
"I just wish I could get through to Sora somehow," I said, pinching the bridge of my nose. "Anzu just lets the boy do whatever he wants. He needs to realize…that there are consequences to his actions."
"You carry a very long shadow," remarked Yami.
"You think that is the problem?"
"That might be the issue."
I thought about that; let it swirl about my mind. I had no intention of becoming an unattainable role model for my younger son. And, yet, it's likely there never was a chance for me to be anything else.
Yami could see that my glass was empty. "Would you like another, Seto? Or is there another reason you're here?" He narrowed his eyes knowingly, a slight smile on his lips. Then he took a long drag off his cigarette.
Seto… He could say my first name all day… He was right. We only had a certain amount of time available to us. "I might have another…afterwards." I almost swallowed that last word. We both knew what we were about to do, and yet I couldn't even say it out loud.
"All right." His eyes were half-closed. I could see a certain…wanting in them. Probably the same wanting that was in my own. He finished his drink and stubbed out his cigarette into the ashtray. He grabbed his remaining cigarettes and the lighter and shoved them into his pocket.
He wordlessly led me through his living room. His cat looked up at me from the sofa and then went back to licking a paw. The afternoon sun continued to stream in through the crack between the curtains, making a golden streak across the floor.
We entered a room at the back of his place. I closed the door. The latch clicked, sealing the room like a tomb.
It was at this point that we finally touched each other.
Yami reached up and wrapped his arms around my neck, pulling my head down towards his waiting lips. I obliged, meeting them with my own. The resulting kiss was slow and sumptuous and radiant with warmth. We explored each other with careful precision. I could taste the remains of the Scotch in his mouth. It tasted just as good as I knew it would.
Eventually, we had to come up for air. Immediately, I started removing my suit coat.
Yami's bedroom was in as much disarray as the rest of the place. A simple, unmade double bed filled most of the room. There was a nightstand which contained three partially filled glasses of water, a pile of receipts and other various papers, some scattered coins and small bills, an ancient clock radio which read 2:17 pm, a discount store reading lamp, an old, well-worn hardcover copy of the Complete Works of William Shakespeare in the original English, another ashtray desperately in need of emptying, and a small framed photograph of the two of us standing together, arm in arm, in front of one of the pyramids of Giza at seventeen years old.
His curtains in this room were a bit thicker, making the beam of sunlight that shot between them all the more intense as it fell upon the middle of the bed. The rest of the room was rather dim in comparison.
I looked around for a place to hang my clothes. It would not do to go back home this evening looking like a rumpled mess.
"You can hang that in the closet," Yami said. He had already shrugged his sweater off onto the floor and was taking off his pants.
His closet had more hangers than clothes. I chose one and slipped the jacket onto it and hung it up on the closet rod. Then, I started to loosen my tie.
"This place really is a mess," I said.
"Well, not all of us can afford a maid." He was already down to his briefs and socks and grinning like a Cheshire cat. He sat on the edge of the bed and was tugging on the socks to take them off.
"Hn. It doesn't mean you couldn't take some time to pick things up once in a while." I smoothed my pants and put them on another hanger.
"You should talk," said Yami with narrowed eyes. "If it weren't for your cleaning staff and your wife, your life would look more like mine. I know how you tend to get engrossed in your work. We are not so different, you and I."
"Doubt it." I'd gotten my dress shirt off and onto another hanger. I could see that Yami was already completely nude and his clothes were scattered all over the floor. He walked over to tug the curtains shut.
"Don't," I said, the word tumbling out of my mouth before I was even conscious of it. "I want to see you."
He mischievously pulled them slightly more open. If there were any Peeping Toms prowling his neighborhood this afternoon, they could get a nasty shock, that's for sure. Usually, I'm more discreet, but, this day, I didn't give a shit.
He lay on his side on the bed, naked and unashamed, head casually propped up on his elbow, eyes gazing at me as I finished undressing. "Need some help?"
He was still an exotic beauty, even if he was not as young as he used to be. His caramel colored skin glistened where the beam of sunlight fell upon his legs. He was already "ready to go", so to speak. I swear, in some ways, he was exactly the same as 25 years ago… I could feel myself stirring in the same area. God, I wanted him. I wanted him so bad I could taste the desire squirting up into my mouth.
I left my boxers and socks on the floor and jumped onto the bed, pinning Yami on his back with me fully on top of him. I His eyes were filled with lust. "Seto…" he said, purring my name. As I said before, he can say that name all day long.
I started with a long, slow, luxurious kiss, grinding myself against his body. Being with Yami in these stolen moments just felt so right and so perfect. I couldn't believe that I was the one who screwed this up. I couldn't believe that he would still have me.
There was a warm beam of sunlight on my backside shedding light on our situation.
Yami smiled after the kiss. "I must say, this is a much more pleasant way to spend the afternoon than what I had planned."
I grinned. "What did you have planned?"
"Laundromat. And, I have a huge stack of papers to grade. I was going to start working on them as I watched my undies whirl around in the machine."
I laughed at the image I got in my head of Yami's delicates twirling around. "I was supposed to go to an off-site meeting today. I was already at the train station when I got the call that it was rescheduled for Friday. I found myself with an entire afternoon free..."
"And you remembered that I'm free on Wednesday afternoons."
"You do still send your schedule to me every semester for some reason."
"Just in case you want to stop by. I'm glad you did, Seto. I've missed you, too." He grabbed my head and drew me down for another kiss, interlocking his fingers in the back of my hair.
My God, this felt so good and so right and so…necessary. Food, water, oxygen…and Yami's luscious lips. I felt I might wither away without his touch.
"Mmm…Seto…what happened to those two kids who met in Egypt 25 years ago?"
"I met you before we went to Egypt," I murmured. "Duelist Kingdom? Battle City? Did you forget all that?"
"Ah, yes…" He nipped at my neck with expert precision, taking care not to leave any telltale signs of our encounter. "But, that was merely my soul. You met my body in Egypt."
I gave a low chuckle. "Good thing, too. I could never have done that to Yugi's body."
"You kissed Yugi's body, that night before," he teased. "That night you confessed your love to me."
"Don't remind me I kissed Yugi," I said, nipping at his neck now. "At the time, I thought it was my only chance."
"Probably a good thing for Yugi that you didn't want to go farther that night…."
"Oh, I wanted to," I said. "I so wanted to." I luxuriated in the cinnamony smell of Yami's hair products. I gently nibbled his earlobe.
That is one of his sensitive points. "Oh, Min…" I loved his reactions, his appeals to ancient gods.
"Is that why you were so eager once I got my own body?" he asked.
"Mmmhmm." I was making a trail of little kisses down his chest past the cartouche he always wore on a silver chain.
"As soon as we could ditch the others, we were in your hotel room… No thought to preparation, you just rushed right in…"
I stopped my ministrations and stared at him. Why did he have to bring that up? "I didn't know about that back then, OK? The one thing I needed to know from sex ed, they didn't cover!"
Yami laughed. He stroked my arm. "Relax Seto. I didn't know, either. I've already forgiven you about a million times." Then he leaned his head further back on his pillow, eyes rolled up in search of the memory. "It worked much better when we found that bottle of hand lotion. To this day, I cannot smell Jergens lotion without thinking of you."
I am surprised that he ever wanted to try anything else with me after those first clumsy attempts. He's right, I had done no research into the matter, and I was in such a mad rush to possess him that night that all concepts of physics and anatomical reality went straight out the window.
I'd slid down to rest on top of his legs with one hand casually working his member and the other hand gently stroking his balls. Here was the altar of Yami, and I his most fervent worshipper. I kissed him gently on the tip. He let out a slight moan of pleasure.
"Don't let me keep you from your laundry," I teased. He chuckled. I took him into my mouth. God, how I'd missed this, his cock and how wonderfully vibrant and alive and velvety smooth it was. My tongue inside was exploring all of it, and I was taking him deeper and deeper inside with each bob of my head.
I could tell he was enjoying himself by his quiet moans. So was I. I started to hum. That drives him crazy.
"Oh, Seto…" I could feel the stripe of sun cross my head, almost too warm, almost too bright, almost too blinding. Perhaps I should have let him close the drapes after all. My eyes were squeezed shut. They were unnecessary anyway.
As much as I would have loved to keep going, to complete the act, to feel those warm spurts slide past the back of my throat and down to warm my waiting stomach, I knew that there were other pleasures of Yami's body I also wanted to experience in this one short afternoon given to me. We were older now, and we had to choose our climaxes carefully.
I let my finger wander back and circle his entrance expectantly. I heard a hitch in his breath, a certain anticipation. I took his cock out of my mouth with a slight pop.
"You're ready for that?" Oh, I hoped he'd say yes.
"Born ready." He laughed. He was but a shadow, my face filled with blinding light. He was always a shadow, my Yami, my darkness.
"All right. I shouldn't keep you waiting." I lifted myself off his body and made my way to his nightstand drawer.
The inside of the drawer was a jumbled mess of objects, just like everything else in this place. Condoms, lube, various sex toys we'd used over the years…now, this was a trip down memory lane I wouldn't mind taking….
I pulled out a large white bottle. Jergens lotion in the "original cherry-almond scent".
"Seriously?" I said, cocking an eyebrow. I'm not sure why it surprised me. He holds on to absolutely anything that triggers any sort of memory.
"Well…yeah," he admitted. "You don't come around often enough!" Then, he added, "You have to pay attention to get the right one. There are too many different kinds."
"Brand extension," I explained. "Jergens is an established name, so they piggyback on that rather than make the effort and expense to establish a new brand."
"Well, it's damned annoying!" Yami scowled. "Especially when I have to take lotion back to the store because it doesn't smell right and the shop ladies look at me like…like I'm…a total weirdo! 'This kind is actually much better for your hands, sir.'" He imitated a nasal female shop clerk voice.
"You are a total weirdo," I said. "Did you tell them that you don't use it on your hands, you use it on your—"
"Are you going to keep talking, Kaiba, or are you going to fuck me?"
I knew I was getting to him when I heard him drop my surname. I let the lotion fall back into the chaos of the drawer and took out a different bottle of lube and a condom packet. "You'd better believe I'm going to fuck you." I leered at him.
He settled back into his pillow and assumed the position, drawing his legs up, leaving nothing to the imagination. I covered my index finger in lubricant and circled his entrance once more.
The fucking sun was in my face again. I was going to need to draw those curtains. I teased him some more with my finger first while shaking my head.
I felt his fingers in my hair. "Your roots are showing, old man."
I looked up at him, squinting. "You, of all people, should not be saying anything about someone's hair color. What are you up to, four now?"
"Hah! I'm surprised your wife hasn't said something."
"You think I've been doing this with my wife?"
He gave a wry chuckle. "Why not?"
The reason rushed to my lips. I stopped myself before it blurted out. I hadn't planned to tell him. Not yet.
"You should leave it natural," he said. "It would look good on you. You would look quite distinguished."
I sat up. The sun was too much in my eyes, too bright. Those curtains needed to be fixed now. "Hn. That would go over well. Perhaps you can get away with gray hair, dear Professor, but I have an image to maintain. Gaming is a youth-oriented industry."
"You have a lot of 'images' to maintain." His voice was dry and unemotional.
Oh, great, here was holier-than-thou Yami. His pharaoh side was showing.
I sat on the edge of the bed. "I do," I said.
"Hmpf. If I thought you were happy, it'd be a lot easier to take."
"Who says I'm not happy?"
"You'd be with her if you were."
I stood, reaching to tug the curtains closed, shrouding the room in dimness. It was not as if I hadn't heard this lecture before about a million times. "Shut up. You want to do this or not?"
For once, Yami was silent. The silence was sickening.
"I see," I finally said.
Yami sat up. "Seto, I just think…"
I picked my shorts up off the floor. "Can it. I knew this was a bad idea, coming today."
I'd had enough. From both of them. I put my shorts back on. I didn't know where I was going to go, but it wasn't here and it wasn't home.
"Seto, let's talk."
"What is there to talk about?" I snapped as I stood in front of the closet, looking for my t-shirt.
Anger bubbled up inside me. "What the hell for?"
I could hear a hitch in his voice, a choke of emotion. He sat up straight. His soul was bare to me. "For everything. For all of it. That this had to happen. That it has to be..."
"…this way." I found myself completing the sentence, my head swimming with a crushing sense of déjà vu.
He said those words this time, but I said them before. In his eyes, I saw myself in ancient memory. Same old story mixed up in the blender of time. I'm the one with power and obligation this time around; he's the one with love and slavish devotion.
A dark room. A tomb, perhaps. A forbidden place. A crack where the sun seeps in. I believed none of what I saw.
"You remember, don't you?" he whispered. He was sitting up on the edge of the bed now.
I shook my head. I didn't want to remember. It was bad enough that parts of my actual past kept coming up to bite me in the ass—I didn't need past lives interfering with things as well. They always would, of course. They always would as long as I was involved with Atemu.
He stood now, he walked over to me standing in front of his closet, he took my hand so gently in his, and I was suddenly aware of the nearness of his body, naked to me, revealed.
"You remember now." He was now in front of me, looking up into my eyes, his eyes gentle and full of concern. Yami remembered everything clearly. He had regained all his memories as Pharaoh back in Egypt. When I remembered, it was always in fits and starts, just little things that would trigger these thoughts, these unremembered remembrances. It was almost always in his company that I had these flashbacks.
He had me in an embrace now, so warm and so close. "I remember," he said softly, reaching up to brush my bangs out of my face. "I was out of place. I am not a jealous lover. I just wish you could be happy, Seto."
We held each other for a few minutes just like that. We'd fought before—many, many times before—and made up before, usually with sex, but I couldn't remember it being like this before, this sense of pure consolation, and it puzzled me.
"You all right?" whispered Yami.
I eventually nodded.
"Wanna cuddle?" He grinned.
"Why the fuck not?" I wasn't exactly "in the mood" anymore, and the afternoon was already shot as it was.
We crawled back into Yami's bed, arranging the rumpled bedclothes on top of us, kicking and shaking them so that they would cover us without any cold spots. I finally took the duvet and shook it violently so that it would lay flat on top of us.
We lay on our sides, his back pressed to my chest, like nested spoons in a drawer. The sheets smelled so unmistakably like Yami—a mixture of cigarettes and hair gel and musk. I kissed the spot where his neck met his shoulder. It felt nice, being together like this on a stolen afternoon, touching each other like this, skin-to-skin. Maybe it didn't always have to be about sex with us all the time.
He chuckled. "Is this what being an old married couple is like, Seto?"
"How would I know?"
"I figured you would." I could see his shoulder shrug.
I deliberated in my mind for a moment. He should know. He had a right to know. Yet, this had the potential to change everything. I wasn't sure if this would be good or bad for us.
"I've got something to tell you," I whispered.
I took a deep breath. "I've got an appointment with my lawyer tomorrow. Anzu and I are getting a divorce."
He was silent. I could not see his face, so I could not gauge his reaction. His reply, after about a minute, was a whispered, "Why?"
"She's cheating on me, Yami."
Yami's laugh was low and sardonic. "So?"
It figured that he wouldn't understand.
"Why now?" he whispered.
"I caught her in our bedroom with some guy she's in that play with. Some young hotshot. She gave me the usual bullshit about how it didn't mean anything." I let out a low, derisive chuckle. The truth was, if it had meant something, I'd probably have been able to forgive her.
"Does she know about us?" Yami asked.
"No, and I would like to keep it that way. However, there's a chance it could come out. You know the press is going to have a field day once they get a whiff of this."
"I see." He was taking this better than I thought he would.
"That's not the worst part," I said.
Another dark chuckle from Yami. "Leave it to Seto Kaiba to have that not be the worst part."
"This isn't the first time."
"Of course not. Just like it's not the first time you've ever come over here."
I sighed again. "That's not what I mean, Yami. I mean this isn't the first guy."
"So?" He shifted away from me and lay on his back, staring towards the ceiling. "Seto, you can be so…hypocritical sometimes. Why don't you guys just come clean and have an open marriage? Heck, bring her by sometime. She liked me well enough back in the day."
Anzu would throw a complete hissy fit if she actually saw her dear Atemu's deplorable living conditions. That, and I'm sure she wouldn't have much fun. After all, Yami's gayer than a rainbow glitter unicorn. I couldn't even imagine him with a woman—especially Anzu. I started to laugh.
"It's not that funny," he said in mock indignation. "I'd do it for you. I can still remember some of Yugi's fantasies about her. A little vanilla, perhaps…but he was just a boy back then, after all. Sticking your penis in something that wasn't your own hand was a pretty exciting concept back then."
"Seriously, Yami? I'm glad we're not having sex right now, because you just killed the mood."
The fact that he and Yugi could read each other's thoughts and feelings back when they shared a body did disturb me just a bit.
"Does Yugi know about the kiss that night before your duel?" I asked.
"Yes, but only because I told him later. He had given me complete privacy that night. I figured that he ought to know. He was surprisingly okay with it."
"He figured as much…that we liked each other in that way. You know, when I didn't go all gaga over Anzu after he set me up on that date with her to the arcade. He knew I was gay before I did, really."
"Yeah, because everyone who is not attracted to Anzu is automatically gay," I said sarcastically.
"Hey, she's a good-looking woman. Tall, dark brown hair, bright blue eyes. My type, actually. It should have worked."
I laughed. I suppose my wife and I did have some similarities in appearance. "How about Mai Kujaku? Remember her?" She was one of the world's premier female duelists at one time. She also had bountiful, long blond wavy hair, huge violet eyes, a killer body, and an impressive rack.
"Mai? Are you serious? No."
"You're 100% gay, then," I concluded. "There's no doubt about it."
"Yugi always said you were good-looking, but a bit of an asshole."
"Well, he's never been quite sure what I see in you."
"What do you see in me?" I trailed my fingers down his side to stroke his lower abdomen.
"Sometimes I wonder." He laughed. "We can't help who we love, I guess." He turned his head towards me. "What? You want me to say, 'You're a sex god' or something?"
"I might want you to say that," I admitted.
"I'm sure whoever Anzu's sleeping with, he's not nearly as attractive as you."
"He's young. In his late twenties, probably. Blond hair. A pretty boy. Some sort of artist. He's everything I'm not."
"So, dumb as a box of rocks?"
"Seems to be her type."
Yami sensed something as I said that. I know he did. He always does. I can hide nothing from him for long.
"What's wrong, Seto?"
He turned over onto his side so that he was fully facing me this time. He bent his arm at the elbow and propped his head up on his hand. "Talk to me."
I sighed. "I suppose you ought to hear it from me before you hear it from anyone else. But, don't tell anyone."
"My lips are sealed. Nothing escapes these four walls."
I glanced around. This tomb would be a suitable hiding place for this secret, I supposed. "So, I told you she's had other lovers since we've been married?"
"Well, one of them is someone we both know."
Yami narrowed his eyes. "Not…Yugi, is it?"
Although nothing should really have shocked me, I was a bit shocked by his guess. "Oh, dear God, no," I said. "Well, I wouldn't put anything past her at this point, but…no. Unless you know something?"
Yami shook his head. "Not that he's told me."
Yami and Yugi told each other everything. Yugi was the only other person who knew that Yami and I had an ongoing relationship. There were others who knew or suspected we had been involved in the past, but, supposedly, all that youthful nonsense came to an end once Anzu and I got married.
If you want the truth, it did for a while. Yami and I had broken up and moved on. But, something kept pulling us together.
"No, it's way worse than Yugi. It might be forgivable if it were Yugi."
Yami thought about it, racking his brains for a guess rather than asking me to tell him outright. He would turn anything into a game. "Marik."
"Marik? You mean Marik Ishtar? The guy from the Battle City tournament?"
"Hey, it was just a guess. When you described that other guy, it sort of reminded me of Marik, that's all."
"Well…yeah. Blond, pretty, not always quite there…"
"Uh…no. And he doesn't really look like Marik. You're kind of on the right track, though. He is someone from way back."
"Way back, huh? Bakura?"
"No. And isn't he…?"
Yami cut me off before I could say "gay." "Yeah, yeah. Hmm…Pegasus?"
"Pegasus? Ugh, no!"
"It is a man, right?"
"Yes." I gave an exasperated sigh. I thought this was the King of Games here.
I laughed. "No. But, you're quite a bit warmer."
He looked at me, his eyebrows furled in thought. The strange way his guesses were going, I expected him to guess Yugi's grandpa next. But, then a spark of life hit his eyes and he gasped. "No!"
"You've got to be kidding me!"
I shook my head. "She told me herself. And, once the DNA tests are done, we'll know for certain."
"The DNA tests…?"
"The ones I'm going to have my lawyer order tomorrow."
"What? You mean…?"
"Yes. Apparently Jounouchi and Anzu were a pretty hot item about fifteen years ago. She was lonely because of all my work regarding the Duel Academy, apparently."
"You don't get it, do you, Yami?"
"What is there to get? So she slept with Jounouchi. You slept with me. A divorce is going to be a long, drawn-out, expensive, painful mess. Forgive each other. Be open with each other. A pharaoh is allowed his concubines, after all."
There he went, thinking things would all be better if we just pretended we were in ancient Egypt. "How many times do I have to tell you that I am not a pharaoh, and neither are you. This is twenty-first century Japan, and I have to live within these cultural guidelines, not those of a far-off land 3000 years ago!"
Yami huffed. He flopped his head back onto the pillow. "It's still sound advice. Had I not sealed myself in the puzzle back then, I'd have needed to produce an heir. Teana was ready and willing. I know you found her comfort after I was gone."
He could be so infuriatingly frank sometimes. Yes, once Seto went from High Priest to Pharaoh after Atemu's apparent death, he did take a lover from one of the court dancers. Her name was Teana. Yami suspects that Anzu was her reincarnation. Third time was the charm for old Seto. I have no idea if Teana and Seto were happy ever after or not. Anzu never triggers any flashbacks the way Yami does, so anything after he left is quite fuzzy and undefined.
"It's not just that she slept with that mutt. She bred with him as well. She's been passing the bastard offspring of that union off as mine for over fourteen years."
"I should have known, really. How can two blue-eyed parents have a hazel-eyed son? It's junior-high genetics. But, many doctors and experts reassured us that it can happen, that the genetics for eye color are actually more complicated than they suggest in school. However…you are familiar with Occam's Razor, aren't you?"
"Certainly. The simplest explanation is the most likely."
"Jounouchi has hazel eyes. A tall, yet stocky and muscular build. A disinclination towards the academic. A preference for acting before thinking. A penchant for getting into trouble. My son is wearing that mutt's face, and I had no idea at all."
"So, this is why I need the divorce, Yami." I stroked his hair.
He remained silent.
"I've known for a few weeks. I thought perhaps I could overlook it…but, I just can't. Even if it's going to be a big scandal. Even if it's going to be messy and expensive. I have prenuptial agreements to protect KaibaCorp, but, still…even with the personal property and assets alone, it's going to be difficult at best. There's a lot of disentanglement after twenty years."
Yami sighed. "You could still forgive each other."
"You've been hanging around Yugi too long."
"I've always been grateful for Yugi's forgiveness. You should be as well. Otherwise, you wouldn't be here."
"You mean Duelist Kingdom?" Yugi did pretty much save my life there by overruling his other self's finishing blow in our duel on top of Pegasus's castle.
"Well, yes. That, and…he's forgiven me for things as well." Yami sighed. "He forgave me for still being in love with you."
This was news to me. "He did? I thought he threw you out."
"No. That was a mutual decision, for me to move out. He was not comfortable with me seeing you and him at the same time. I needed to choose."
"You chose me?"
"I love that you call me that. You're the only one who still does. How could I give that up? All our memories together…"
I rolled over and shut him up with a deep kiss. Deep and dark and tender and strong and magnificent. That is Yami.
"Sentimental old fool." I said this with tears glistening at the corners of my eyes.
"Seto, I will always love you until the end of time." He'd rolled me onto my back. He was now straddling my hips.
"Do you think we'll get it right in our next lifetime?" I asked.
"Perhaps. Maybe one of us will be born into a woman's body the next go-around. Or, 3000 years hence, maybe two men together finally won't matter so much."
"Or nuclear war will have wiped out civilization and the only thing to be reborn as will be cockroaches."
"Oh, I would totally fuck you as a cockroach." He started grinding his hips against mine smoothly and slowly.
"Be careful who you say that to," I warned. "I heard Insector Haga went to prison for that."
He laughed. "I meant if I were also a cockroach. Or we could be dung beetles. They were worshipped by the ancient Egyptians, you know."
I laughed at this. "Apparently, godhood wasn't quite the rarified thing back then."
"According to the ancient Egyptians, all dung beetles were male, and they reproduced by injecting sperm into—"
I put my finger against his lips. The mental picture I was getting was unmistakably bizarre. "I'm not sure I want to hear that right now."
He grabbed my arm and brought it down upon the bed, holding it down above my head. He pressed his body against mine and whispered in my ear. "I'm just an archaeologist. I'm certain the biology department disagrees." Then he chuckled. His breath was warm and heavy in my ear. "Come visit me in Egypt this spring, Seto." Then he pressed his lips against mine in a forceful kiss.
I luxuriated against his touches, and was now cursing myself for having put my shorts back on so long ago, as I wanted, needed to feel him on top of me, to feel more skin-on-skin contact than just our bare chests together was providing. I needed him, wanted him more than ever.
"Yami…" I swallowed hard.
"Yes?" His voice was breathy, transcendent.
"Please…" I hoped he would get the idea.
"Yes?" He knew, but he was teasing me. Why was it so easy to demand what I wanted in any other realm, and yet when it came to sex, especially sex with him, I found that I lost my voice entirely?
"Please…I need you…"
"What do you need me to do? Do you need me to do this?" He gently nibbled on my earlobe. A moan escaped my lips.
"Ah, yes, that's what you need me to do. Just this."
"Don't tease me, Yami." My voice went somewhere between a moan and a whine.
"It wouldn't be fun if I didn't tease you a little." He moved on to the space just above my collarbone. "All you need to do is tell me what you want and I will do it. Your wish is my command."
"God…you know what I need…."
All I could hear was Yami's deep laugh. The golden sunlight of the afternoon was fading into the shadows of evening. He moved down my body, catching my nipple between his teeth.
"Ah! God, yes…"
He let go. "You keep talking to the gods. It seems you wish to pray, Seto. And here I thought you were an atheist now."
"I am, you son of a bitch! Yami…please…"
"I think we could come up with a quite pleasing prayer. Tell me what you want, Seto Kaiba. Tell me what you need."
I could stand it no longer, his teasing, his voice, the warmth that was building in my groin. "Yami…I need you…" I gasped as he ministered to my other nipple between his devilish teeth. "I need you…I need to feel you inside me…"
The admission made, his bewitching eyes twinkled at me as he looked up, my nipple still in his teeth, eliciting an electric mixture of pain and pleasure.
"As you wish." His voice was deep and his tone was dark and mischievous. He knew that once again, he had won. In a flash, he removed my undergarments and was stroking me with strength and precision with one hand and feeling around the bed for that bottle of lube I had gotten out earlier with the other.
"Hmmm…well, if I can't find it, we've always got Jergens lotion Plan B."
I groaned at this. It did not work as well. I knew from experience.
He got up from the bed and started digging around in the nightstand drawer. My pulse quickened. I was having an "Oh Shit" moment. There was a lot of strange stuff in that drawer. Who knows what kind of idea he could get from there? Perhaps it wasn't too late to turn this around…
Was this a good idea? Perhaps I should put a stop to this…
He threw all the sheets and blankets onto the floor with a grand flourish. "I think I found something quite satisfactory," he said with a wicked grin. At this point, I wasn't sure if he'd actually found the lube or the lotion or, judging by the evil grin on his face, a tube of Ben Gay.
It was wet and cold, whatever he'd found, and there was plenty of it, and I could hear him say, "Baby, relax." I hate it when he calls me "baby" and yet I like it at the same time.
"You're tight. So tight. Doesn't she ever do this to you?"
"Are you kidding?" I said, my words coming out in ragged gasps.
"Not even a finger? Oh, baby, I could tell her how much you love it…"
I willed myself to relax. It had been a long, long time since I'd been bottom. He was taking his time with the preparation, inserting his slender finger as slowly as possible, teasing me and tantalizing me. I was pretty sure he'd found the real lube. At least, it wasn't Ben Gay. He should know better than to try a stunt like that if he ever wanted to do this again.
"I do love it. I love what you do to me." The voice came from my body, but it didn't sound like me at all.
"All right. I'm going for two fingers now. Here we go…"
I'd suggested anal sex to Anzu once. If I recall correctly, she was so disgusted by the idea I slept in one of the guest rooms that night.
"It can be rather pleasurable…or so I've heard." That's what I told her.
I felt the fullness and motion of his fingers inside me. It felt good. I wanted more and I told him so.
"You are more relaxed now. Good." His voice was as dark and smooth and liquid as melted chocolate. He slowly added his third finger to the mix. "Ah, you're almost ready for me," he said as he twisted and scissored his fingers and moved them in and out.
I could feel the flutter of anticipation in my stomach as he removed his fingers and wiped them off on the sheets. This is what I couldn't get at home…that rush of adrenaline. It's a taboo, but it's more than that.
Jesus Christ, he was always ready to go. I watched with lascivious eyes as he rolled on the condom and covered his length with generous amounts of lubrication.
"So, you did find it?"
"We had a second bottle."
"You've always been good to me. Better than I deserve."
He said nothing to this. Perhaps he agreed with me.
Ever so slowly, he made his way inside, and ever so slowly, I adjusted to the feeling of being filled by Yami, which was magnificent, and I wondered again just why it was I insisted on topping so much of the time. I am certain a psychologist would have a field day with that topic.
"You could go a little faster," I said weakly.
"No I can't," he said in a whispered grunt. "You are still so tight, baby. It is incredible. Just relax a little more. That's it.."
I willed myself to relax, blowing air through pursed lips. This is probably why we usually go the other way around most of the time.
"Oh! That's it, baby. You are incredible."
Is this why I came here? For the ego stroke? People were stroking my ego all day, and yet his words are the only ones that really count.
"You are incredible." It's about time I told him.
He smiled at this, bit his lower lip, half-closed his eyes, and pushed his way in with a final thrust and –"Ah!"—he found the spot inside which turned this from a slightly uncomfortable exercise into sheer bliss. He leaned against my chest and held himself there.
He was such a tease. "Well, don't just stop at that," I chided.
He laughed. "I'm not as young as I used to be. Besides, I want to be careful."
"You won't hurt me."
He started with slow, tantalizing thrusts. His eyes were closed and his cheeks were tinged with red, and I could see the glint of that damn silver necklace as it danced around, bouncing off his chest. Anzu gave him that damn thing in Egypt, years and years ago when he found out his true name, and, of course, he would never get rid of anything. It was as if he felt he would forget his name again the moment he took the trinket off.
Perhaps I'd give him a new necklace when this whole mess finally blew over. A gold one. Gold was more his color. I'd give it to him once I was free…
I would be free. It was a heady thought.
Our relationship had been driven underground for so long that I wasn't certain exactly what it would look like once it was brought out into full sunlight.
I mean, would we live together? Would that even work? I glanced around at the disarray of the room. A far cry from what my life was like—neat, orderly, fashionable, austere…sterile…utterly false.
I grabbed at the swinging silver pendant and tossed it over his shoulder onto his back. He opened his eyes in surprise at this. He grinned, his boyish, rakish grin, and his thrusts grew faster, deeper, harder, and more rhythmic and his eyes half-closed and his mouth gained an expression of bliss and concentration.
I love that look. It haunts my dreams. It has haunted my dreams since I was fifteen years old.
He makes love like he duels—small, seemingly insignificant movements cleverly combined in different permutations that ultimately sneak up on you with a mind-blowing payoff.
All I could do was hold on for the ride, grip the sheets in my hungry fingers as the heat built up inside, quickening inside my belly, coiling tighter and tighter like a snake squeezing prey. I could taste in my mouth the metallic sheen of desire. We did not say much in these moments, not much beyond heavy breathing and the occasional grunt or moan as we worked towards the peak of our pleasure.
"Yami…" It was nearly time. He felt for something on the sheets near his right hand.
I felt his strong grip, and something slick, not cold this time, enveloped me, and, as he pumped up and down with strong, swift motions, a subtle cherry-almond scent hit my nostrils and I was transported back 25 years to a hotel room in Luxor where two kids were experimenting with a new type of battle, one body just born that day and the other may as well have been.
Once again, I jumped into a new experience while completely naïve of the consequences.
All at once, a huge wave of pleasure washed over my body, its tingly heat spreading at once to my head and my toes, so intense that I could no longer see my lover, who continued his rate of attack, and it was all becoming too much, too much, too much-too much to possibly bear.
I heard his whispered "Seto…" and never did the two syllables sound quite as sweet as in that moment as he filled me and he collapsed on my chest with his ear listening to the still rapid beating of my heart.
We lay there together just like that for a beautiful moment, sweaty and sticky and panting and laughing like children at the end of a footrace to the end of the block. Had he won or had I? Did it really matter?
I brushed the spikes of his hair down with my hand and watched with fascination as they popped right back up again as my hand moved past them.
I loved his crazy hair. His crazy mind.
Maybe it would work this time. We'd need a housekeeper and a storage garage. We'd make it work.
Eventually, we did the obligatory rolling off and cleaning up and picking the bedclothes off the floor and lying together side by side. Yami lit a cigarette.
"I suppose you don't have much time," he said.
"I suppose I don't," I replied in a hushed tone. The room was dim now. The tip of Yami's cigarette glowed bright red in the dark.
"Good luck tomorrow."
I did not reply. I did not want to think about the future. For once, the present was enough.
"You have time for another drink?"
"Mm-hm." I nodded. I'd make the time for that.
Yami got up and flipped on the bedroom light, flooding the room with a sudden starkness. We dressed slowly, stretching out aching muscles along the way.
I stole a glance at his nightstand. "Shakespeare?"
He looked at me, a sly glance, a smirk, as he buttoned up his shirt. "I read from it at night before I go to sleep. I'm friends with the head of the English department. I sometimes have lunch with him and we discuss it. There is some beautiful poetry here." He pulled his sweater over his head and straightened out the collar of the shirt underneath. "There's a play in here about Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt-the last active pharaoh. She falls in love with the Roman Marc Antony, and it ends in tragedy. Our line ends with an asp's bite to the breast."
He had a haunted look, the haunted look of a man who gets to find out how the world ends.
He looked back towards the book, as if he had something more to say about it, but then he looked back towards me as I was straightening my tie. He ran some fingers through his now even more unruly hair in a vain attempt to tame it. He picked up his cigarette from where it was smoldering on the ashtray. "Come, let's have that drink."
It would make sense that the renowned scholar would have more to say about our situation, but he remained strangely silent as we walked back to his kitchen table. The sun was now going down, and his living room was bathed in shadow. His cat leapt up off the sofa as we walked by and meowed plaintively. Yami reached down to give it a scratch behind the ears.
I sat down at the table. I poured the glasses. I saw Yami's forlorn half-eaten lunch still there.
"Listen, do you want to go out and grab a bite to eat?" I said casually-too casually to truly be casual. "We haven't been to Panda Garden in ages." I was referring to a hole-in-the-wall Chinese restaurant down the street that we used to haunt as students.
He walked into the room. He shook his head and sat down. "Maybe some other time," he said quietly. "I've still got laundry to do this evening, and all those papers to grade."
I wanted to grab him, shake his shoulders, tell him, "This is more important than your damn laundry!" but I really couldn't. Not without once again being a hypocrite.
This post-coital drink was an important part of the entire ritual. A hint of booze on the breath covered a multitude of sins, from a rumpled collar to a bit too much blush on the cheeks and relaxation in the step.
"Why must you always come home from these meetings smelling like a distillery and an ashtray?" Anzu would always say in disgust.
"It's the art of the business deal in Japan." I'd always smile sweetly and kiss her on the cheek. She'd usually be disgusted enough to leave me alone for the entire evening.
Atemu can do no wrong in her eyes. She has no idea what he's really like. She's much more comfortable with a life filled with pretenses. It would be interesting to find out what would happen when her world was utterly shattered.
The Scotch once again filled my sinuses with its peatiness. Yami blew a stream of smoke into the air.
"I guess it's too soon to know if I'm doing the right thing," I finally remarked.
"Hm." He eyed me. "I'd like to think that you are," he said quietly.
That was nice to hear.
A small smile came to his lips. "You always create your own destiny, Seto Kaiba." He sipped at his drink. "You just need to know what you want that destiny to be."
I looked into his crimson eyes, and I felt a flutter in my abdomen. Lust? Anxiety? Anticipation? Intoxication? I wasn't sure what it was.
I knew what I wanted…if he would have me.
"I wish…" I finally said with trepidation, "that we could begin again, without the baggage of the past."
He started to laugh, then thought better of it as he looked into my eyes. I knew he wasn't making light of me, but it was tough to make my heart realize it. "That would be difficult for beings such as us to manage." He set down his glass with a flourish. "I've hurt you. You've hurt me in return. It's happened over and over across two lifetimes. Perhaps…rather than wish for the past to disappear…we should just accept it and move on from here. One day at a time."
"It's going to be difficult."
"Since when have either of us backed down from a challenge?"
He had a point.
"I'll see what I can do about Egypt," I said, and then drained my drink to the last drop.
Yami smiled. "I'm looking forward to it."
So was I. I was not one to ever revisit the past, but it seemed that this rule was just begging to be broken as far as Yami was concerned.
We'd make it work.
I stood. I was suitably flushed and relaxed for the train ride home. I walked out to the entryway to gather my shoes, coat, and briefcase. Yami followed me.
"Don't be a stranger," he murmured as he kissed me on the cheek. I felt him press a folded piece of paper into my hand.
"What's this?" I said, caught by the surprise of the gestures.
He put his index finger against my lips. "Read it later." He winked at me. I stuck the paper in my pocket.
"Go do your laundry, Yami."
He laughed. "You take care of yourself, Seto."
I checked my calendar on my smartphone. "Hey, Yami?"
"Seems I have room for a doctor's appointment next Wednesday afternoon at 1:00."
"Well, then, I'll be here. Oh, and Seto?"
"Good luck tomorrow."
I nodded and stepped out the door into the dark autumn evening.
It wasn't until the crowds on the train started thinning out towards the suburbs that I got a seat. I sent a text to my driver to meet me at the station. And then I started thinking about the events of the afternoon.
I unfolded the note in my pocket. A series of strange characters was drawn on the small page. To most in the modern world, it was unintelligible-some sort of bizarre shorthand, perhaps. To the priests of ancient Egypt, though, this is what it said:
My challenge to you.
Remember that I will always love you until the end of time.
Sentimental old fool. Not that we'd studied all of Shakespeare's sonnets in English class at school, but we did read a few of the more famous ones. Was 120 the one that began, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" I stifled a chortle. He always was overly romantic like that. Sappy, almost.
I still had a few stops to go, so to pass the time, I decided to look up sonnet 120. Might be a nice ego stroke, if nothing else.
On my phone, here's what appeared:
That you were once unkind befriends me now,
And for that sorrow, which I then did feel,
Needs must I under my transgression bow,
Unless my nerves were brass or hammer'd steel.
For if you were by my unkindness shaken,
As I by yours, you've passed a hell of time;
And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken
To weigh how once I suffered in your crime.
O! that our night of woe might have remembered
My deepest sense, how hard true sorrow hits,
And soon to you, as you to me, then tendered
The humble salve, which wounded bosoms fits!
But that your trespass now becomes a fee;
Mine ransoms yours, and yours must ransom me.
I re-read it, the unfamiliar, archaic, foreign language that it was, over and over, and the voice turned from my own to his beautiful baritone, searching for the meaning behind the words.
Did he mean it as his words to me? It seemed that the poem was more fitting as my words to him. After all, I'd done the greater wrong—the more recent wrong.
Did it really matter? Why was I always trying to keep score?
"I've hurt you. You've hurt me in return. It's happened over and over across two lifetimes. Perhaps…rather than wish for the past to disappear…we should just accept it and move on from here. One day at a time."
It occurred to me that Yami had already interpreted the poem for me. That he'd read the poem sometime in the past and thought of me. Had this been his plan all along? Had he just been waiting for the right moment? He'd anticipated my move once again.
There was a time when this would have quite annoyed me. Now I was greatly appreciative of it, for we were no longer opponents.
I looked my phone, selected Yami's name from my contacts, and started a new text message.
"Challenge accepted. See you Wednesday."
I leaned back in my seat and closed my eyes.
It felt so good to be forgiven.
Summary of the sequel, tentatively titled "I've Never Been All that Fond of Winter": It's the night before Dr. Atemu Mutou's 42nd birthday. Or 25th. Or 3042nd. He's not exactly sure. When a freak snowstorm blankets the city of Domino and leaves Atemu stranded in front of Kaiba Corporation, he gets an opportunity to spend an evening with his intermittent lover and peer into his heart.