New Year's came and went. Families joined them at the ryokan for the few days' celebration, including the Ishtar's for Atem, and even Roland showed up to spend it off the clock with the Kaiba brothers. As December edged into January life returned to is normal routine for the group of friends.

Well, as routine as their lives could get. Among the responsibilities of being famous duelists, wedding planning, apartment hunting, and whatever crazy project Kaiba came up with next, there was little to the word 'routine' that fit into their lifestyle. And that was just perfect.

Which was why, two weeks into the new year, Atem found himself standing at an icy corner of a Domino street in the dead of night. His crazy hair was covered by a knitted hat, the wool peacoat was warm around him, but he still bounced up and down to sway off the midnight chill of winter.

Kaiba smirked as he wandered up to his boyfriend and shoved a pair of ice skates into his hands. "It's not that cold," his voice was laced with a teasing snicker he yet released.

"I'm Egyptian," Atem complained and followed his boyfriend to a bench to put them on. "We're not built for the cold. I'm freezing my balls off out here."

"Don't whine, we only have tonight together before you have your tournament in Italy and I have to head back to America," Seto explained as he slipped his own skates on.

Atem looked over his shoulder with a longing at the town car parked on the street. Roland and the recently transferred Betty were standing outside beside it, snuggled up to each other's side with hot cocoa in their hands. He pined for that car's warmth, but if Seto wanted to drag him outside this late at night, he must have had a reason. Although, ice skating was an odd reason.

They just came from a Domino local Duel Monster's gathering which was why they were in their flimsy disguises. Matsuzaki and Hano were there to greet them, duel them, and get crushed by them. Luckily, their determination wasn't shaken and asked to go drinking after next month's gathering, which was accepted.

But tonight, after, Kaiba dragged Atem out to where the German Christmas Festival was held a month before to go skating. The long legs of the man unfolded as he stood and headed to the ice rink. The place was shut down for the night, and the evening was untouched by patrons so they were effectively alone with only the street lights for warmth. It was oddly isolated, but delectably private after seeing the placed decked out in holiday gear and surrounded by far too many sugared up children.

Atem wobbled to the edge of the rink and held the railing tightly as he prepared to step out onto it and effectively fall on his face. He groaned inwardly at the thought as he braced himself but was surprised when a gloved hand hovered within view.

"Seto?" he asked tentatively.

"Come on," Kaiba mused with a half-smile.

Relief sounded from Atem's sigh and he took the offered hand. As predicted, he stumbled the moment his skates hit the ice, but was effectively caught into a warm bundle of his lover's arms. "Atem," the taller man laughed. "You really are awful at this."

The Pharaoh grumbled as he found his footing and held to the other for dear life. "Don't start, babe," he warned lightly.

They took three turns around the rink at full before Atem felt confident enough to unlink their arms. Like before, he copied Kaiba's footwork to find the rhythm of the job, but when he began to pull away, his hand was quickly caught up into a hold. He glanced up, curious to see smiling sapphire eyes peer down at him. "I owe you," was all Kaiba said as he threaded their gloved fingers together. At the corner of his eye, he saw Roland and Betty watching them fondly and give Kaiba a thumb's up. He wasn't entirely sure what that was about, but he was quickly warming up to their presence.

The rivals-turned-lovers talked lightly as they leisurely made their way around the rink. Their discussion breached the topic of Duel Monsters and their trades during their Duel date at the local. They talked of the past month the crazy parties and hard work on the VR Arcade, and lightly discussed the future of the project, but generally left heavier details for when they were working. Speaking of the future, they meandered about how they were going to survive the next two weeks apart. Video chat, of course, and planned phone calls between their time zone differences.

When they passed the subject Yugi and Téa looking at apartments in the same building as the penthouse, Atem was sure a good half an hour passed and he'd since stopped shivering from the cold. They fell into a comfortable silence on the next pass of the rink while Kaiba mused on a subject. He chewed on his lower lip, but Atem patiently waited to hear his lover's thoughts.

"When you get back from Italy, can you take care of Mokuba and the dogs until I return?" he asked thoughtfully. "He's pretty comfortable at your place."

"Of course," Atem answered lightly, his voice lingering against the chilly air on a warm confession. "We love having him around."

"And me?"

"Hm?" Atem peered up at Kaiba, having to strain to hear the soft question.

"And me? Do they… do your friends like having me around as well?" Kaiba finally looked down, their pace slowed as they breached the topic.

But Atem only smiled brightly to reassure his lover. "There is no doubt that you are wholly welcomed into our household. They are your friends, now, just as much as they are mine." Without thinking about it, Atem lift his free hand to his chest for a moment, over his heart where he could feet the solid metal rectangle of the Duel Monster's locket Seto had given him as a Christmas gift. He only took it off for the necessity of bathing and the like, but it was otherwise always hidden under his clothing, just like Kaiba's.

"My friends," Kaiba scoffed at the notion, although something about his proud posture led Atem to believe it was an enduring curse. "I see."

"What are you thinking?" the Pharaoh asked, yanking at the truth of the topic.

"I propose a compromise," the young CEO began suddenly, sounding as if he were in a boardroom meeting, only he was ice skating and holding hands. "That we try a live-in situation."

"Seto?" Atem blinked at the tall man, waiting for clarification. Hadn't they just talked about not wanting to rush their relationship a few weeks ago?

"What I mean is," the other continued, not looking at Atem at all. "That once a month for a week either you come live at my place, or Mokuba and I live at yours. Just to see how it fits into our lives and…" he finally glanced over, but his eyes were firmly set onto their linked hands. "And see where we go from there."

Atem squeezed his hand reassuringly, not letting emotions stopper his voice. "I don't see why not," he agreed easily even if his volume tapered low. "We could try it out for… what? A year's span of time then renegotiate the terms of our agreement?"

"That was my theory as well," Kaiba agreed and finally met his eyes. "We're both pretty stubborn. Compromise is going to be a bitch."

Atem laughed at that. "Yes, I can already see a few fights over who gets what side of the sink."

"And bed. I told you I like the window side in your room."

"It's my bed; I get to choose what side I sleep on."

"I'm stronger than you. I'll kick your ass out onto the couch if I have to."

"Then this ass is out of commission next time you come over. I'm keeping all the costumes at my place, by the way."

A lull of silence lingered, before Kaiba whispered, "Damn!" at the suddenly settled argument.

The Pharaoh chuckled lightly at their stupid bickering. "I think it's a fine idea, Seto. I'll bring it by the others, but I highly doubt it will be met with any objections."

"Of course it's a good idea; it's mine," Seto's bravado returned with annoying arrogance. Atem just shook his head as he nudged his shoulder. "I'm going to miss you," the taller man said quietly. Kaiba suddenly stopped them and gently wheeled Atem around in front of him, just to stare at him and run his gloved fingers across his face. There was nothing for the Pharaoh to do but to smile and allowed for his lover to indulge himself in memorizing Atem's features under his fingers. It was such a common thing for Kaiba to do before they parted that he probably didn't even realize he was doing it half the time.

Only when those fingers curled under Atem's chin did Seto finally lower himself to touch a kiss upon his lips. But something must have been off balance, because before they could find their connection there was a sudden scraping of blades on ice and Kaiba was no longer looming overhead but was a pile of uncoordinated limbs below.

Atem took stock of his ungraceful lover for all of two seconds before he burst out into laughter. "Stop it!" Seto roared as he tried to get himself righted. Of course, Atem only laughed that much harder, but it didn't last long as his pant leg was yanked and he went crashing down on top of that warm body, flailing on the ice along with him.

"Shut up!" Kaiba demanded and pinned Atem below him, but the Pharaoh couldn't stop himself. His stomach was beginning to hurt from all the laughing. The sound was muffled, briefly, when Seto smothered his lips onto Atem's, and suddenly they went from hilarious antics to steamy make out session. Kaiba always knew how to shut him up.

When he finally pulled away, they were still battling each other with looks, but equally, passionately breathless. "Let's get off the ice and get those balls warmed up."

"Ra, yes!" Atem cheered, louder than he needed, but, by the Gods, this was a perfect beginning for the year to come.


Thank you all for reading! Please take care.

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