A/N: Greetings all fans, four years later! I'm sorry to all fans both new and old for taking so long to get back into this story. College doesn't allow me a lot of free time and to be honest, my interest in anime overall had faded for awhile. However, it has recently returned full force! As a result, I am proud to present the long awaited chapter nine of The Game of Seduction. Be sure to tell me what you think! My style has changed some in the last few years, but hopefully for the better.
This chapter is dedicated to dillydally for the motivation and encouragement she provided during the writing of this.
And as always, Yu-Gi-Oh! and all of its characters are the sole property of Kazuki Takahashi, not me.
The coffee mugs and marshmallows were waiting on the table for me when I entered. Grandpa had given the cups to us last year for Christmas, knowing that Duel Monsters merchandise could never go wrong. Mine had the Dark Magician encircling it, the handle specially carved into his shape. Yami received Exodia, which he appreciated but wouldn't have chosen on his own. He always schemed to get my mug instead. If that was his motive now, I couldn't tell. His crossed arms and closed eyes at the table made him look rather docile. Just in case, I shifted both mugs to the counter as I waited for the water to boil. He'd tried the same ploy last time and I was determined not to fall for it again.
"Who was that on the phone," Yami asked, breaking the quiet that had fallen. I dumped the cocoa mix into the cups.
"Just Ryou. He wanted to make sure we'd made it home safe last night." Yami accepted my answer and returned his head to his hands, watching me now. The mood in the house was unusual for Christmas. Being one of my favorite holidays, I usually couldn't contain myself from opening presents and giving them to others. Grandpa's absence had a hand in it, though most of the blame goes to last night. The conversation still left me uncomfortable despite our having returned to good terms. How quickly things could go bad… It wasn't a far jump to apply such a cut-off to the day I admitted my feelings. Having crossed the line, it wouldn't be unreasonable for Yami to separate from me permanently. Why stay connected to someone you didn't feel for? I sighed and finished the cocoa, adding a few extra marshmallows into my cup. Couldn't get all down and out now.
After all, there was still the matter of Ryou's mysterious gift. Perhaps it would turn things for the better. I purposely posited the Exodia cup in front of him and exited the kitchen before he could argue. "Let's open some presents!"
Yami let a few choice words reach me before the kitchen door swung shut behind me.
I sorted presents as I waited for Yami to join me. There weren't too many this year with most of our money going toward the shop's renovation, but as the piles grew, so did my anticipation. I could feel my classic energy building and after a few minutes had passed, I started to grow antsy. What was taking him so long in there? He couldn't be that upset about the mug. Setting my now empty glass back on the table, I returned to the kitchen and slowly pushed it open.
"DON'T COME IN!" If my recoil didn't shut the door, the force of Yami's command certainly did. I stayed rooted in place until the shock faded. Now I was really curious…
"Yami, what's going on? I want to open presents!" I followed my request with a tap on the door, though I made sure it didn't swing open.
"Just a minute," was his reply. I resisted the urge to knock again and returned to my seat before the tree. I glanced at the tags to distract myself, finding my curiosity peaked by one of Yami's. Ryou had forged my name quite well on the tag and the wrapping paper was a deep red with gold ribbon. The box was thick, though, and I struggled to figure out what it was. Hopefully he hadn't deposited the thong he'd tried to push on me earlier. That would be an awkward conversation. 'Well Yami, I figured you wouldn't want any lines with those tight pants you're always wearing…'
"Did you say something," Yami asked, the door swinging shut behind him. I glanced at the present in my hand and dropped it fast. I slid it back to his pile, smiling.
"Not aloud." We stared at each other then, Yami checking my face for any sign of a lie. Unfortunately for him, I'd gotten quite good at lying over the past few days and was able to pass inspection. He slid another package under the tree and took a seat.
"So that's what took you so long," I said. He nodded and reached for my mug only to find it empty. He frowned before replacing it.
"I would have gotten it done last night but I fell asleep." Yami's voice trailed off near the end and a pause hovered between us. I didn't know his reasons, but there was a pressure in my chest at the memory of his pain. Collecting my mug, I returned to the kitchen for a refill. I did a quick recount of the gifts I'd bought him and realized that none of them would convey any sort of meaning for me; nearly all had been purchased before I took on this crusade. Even the card I'd written with one of the Duel Monster card packs was a short, sweet thing. My anxiety at Ryou's gift grew – if it was some outrageously sexual gift, it would be an inappropriate time for me to do something forward because I'd have to laugh it off in order to avoid freaking him out. Then again, if it was just another plain gift, any thoughts he might have about my having feelings for him would be dashed. I returned to the living room. What a mess all this was.
Yami held out a gift for me, rummaging through his pile for one of his own. "You want to go first?"
I accepted the proffered gift but was quick to explain myself. "Only because you made me wait." Yami stayed quiet on the subject and I was glad he didn't turn the blame around to my having prevented him from finishing in the first place. The sooner the whole thing went away, the better. My attention turned to my present and I opened the package quickly. It was an ornament from Grandpa of the Dark Magician.
"Grandpa sure sticks to the safe presents, doesn't he," I laughed, not really surprised. Yami opened his present—another ornament—and couldn't hide the dark expression that crossed his face.
"What is it?" I sat up on my knees and looked over the tissue paper to the blue and white object in Yami's hand.
"A Blue Eyes? Why did Grandpa get you that?" Yami didn't respond to my questioning so I pulled the object from his hand and gave it a look. "Hey, this is one of those limited edition collectibles Kaiba Corp. just sent out. You got the first one! Wow, Kaiba must be so angry he let this one slip out of the factory…" Yami had taken the ornament from my hand by the time I finished. He flipped it over and looked for the number I'd indicated. When he found it, the gloom lifted from his face.
"This will come in handy," he mumbled, giving it another look over. I considered warning Seto about what he had coming. Yami only got that look on his face when a Shadow Game was afoot. But I decided against it. Seto could handle himself, I reasoned, and made my way through the rest of my pile. Cards, snack food, clothing… Presents from my grandfather and friends mingled until we had made our way through almost all of them. Yami had opened most of the presents I'd bought him and thanked me for the card. His genuine gratitude lessened some of my stress but as he grew closer to opening Ryou's gift, I struggled to sit still. The moment was almost here and it wasn't even ten in the morning.
"Well, this is the last one for me," Yami announced, picking up the present with care. The weight surprised him and there was a question in his eyes when they met my own. I played dumb and shrugged, though it was questionable how much of that ignorance I faked. He gave the box a shake but there was little sound beyond a dull thud.
"Saved the best for last, huh?" Yami asked, smiling as he removed the bow.
"You bet." I didn't sound convincing to my own ears, but Yami was too focused on the gift in his arms to catch it. I considered slipping an "I love you" or " Your fly is open" in just for fun, but held back. The glow he had in his eyes was a rare one that I intended to watch as long as possible.
Yami lifted off the top of the box, obstructing my view. I let him search through the layers of tissue yet again and watched his face for what spelled either my success or my doom. Yami stopped his motions. His lips drew together in a thin line as his spine curled against the chair behind him. I waited.
"Yami…?" Yami looked up when I spoke to him, but there was little expression change before he looked down again. His hands moved to the gift and the sound of ruffling pages began. There were pauses between his motions that stretched longer each time, but I waited them out. I feared any sudden movement on my part would shatter his attention. That and I couldn't ask him what it was. I was supposed to be the one who had bought it. Reading him turned out to be a useless pursuit. I couldn't detect anything beyond what his expression gave away – nothing. When Yami finished at last, he set the box aside and fingered the corners of his present.
It was a photo album but of what I couldn't tell. I leaned forward and waved a hand between him and the gift hoping to hold his attention this time.
"So," I asked, putting on a smile. "Do you like it?"
Yami's fingers ceased their play along the album's edges, settling on his knees instead. His gaze traveled my face then and the scrutiny washed over me in a wave of warmth. Those eyes… I could feel them searching my features for something but his motive wasn't clear. All I knew was that being looked at in such a way made my heart ache with a hope I hadn't fully embraced until now. Yami sighed, a small "Hm" resounding in his chest before the tension dissipated. My smile now replaced with concern, I tugged at his nearest pant leg.
"Yami, are you alright? Is there something wrong with the gift?" His once speculative expression relaxed and settled his lips into their familiar curve of calm.
"I'm fine, Yugi. And I couldn't have asked for a better gift."
We cleaned up the wrapping paper and mess we'd left before settling in to explore our presents. I had received several packs of cards and spent a good hour going through and integrating them into my deck. Yami's gifts engrossed him just as fully—a book I gave him on ancient Egypt captured his attention for most of the afternoon. Meanwhile, the photo album sat by his feet under his ever-watchful eye. My attempts to look at it had been thwarted several times, first by the suggestion of cleaning, again by a phone call from my grandfather saying he would be coming home that evening. In each event, Yami kept the photo album close to his side. I doubted he knew I hadn't given the gift to him myself but I couldn't ask to look at it without creating some doubt of his own. So, I watched it from my perch on the couch, waiting for the right moment to strike.
"Good book," I asked, restlessness having driven me to speak. My deck was full and even my back-up deck couldn't take any more adjustment. Yami made some non-committal noise in response. I took it as both a yes and a request for silence. My attention wandered to the ceiling but it remained as uninterested as Yami in the pursuit of conversation. That was the problem with having risked death multiple times. The time between one adventure and the next left a certain amount of dissatisfaction. Nowadays, I mostly wasted time watching American movies with Jou and Ryou…
That was it. The perfect means to getting a hold of his photo album was waiting for me between the scenes of one particular American movie: Star Wars. I realized that the possibility of attacking with him a light saber would not be a fruitful enterprise. Where the hell was I going to get one of those? The force, however, could prove rather useful. The Jedi mind trick had gotten Obi-Wan out of a number of situations. Why wouldn't it help me? And even if the force didn't exist, positive energy was just as powerful, right?
I leaned over the edge of the couch closest to him to make sure my energy wasn't sent to the wrong place. Yami's book continued to distract him, allowing me the chance to focus on him and my goal. Centered, I let my index and middle finger extend and travel from one side of my vision to the other. No response. I focused even more intently, sending Yami the desire to show me the album, and tried again. He shifted in his seat but his gaze never left the page. Frustration erased the desire for subtlety and my fingers flew from side to side in the hope that sheer will would force Yami's submission.
A small dance of triumph ran through my mind as Yami looked up at last. His expression was not as blindly obedient as I had hoped. Instead, his eyes stared down my now frozen fingers hovering a few feet from his face.
"Yugi, what are you doing?" His voice broke through whatever logic had told me this was a valid effort and my hand drop in accordance.
"I was trying… to… get your attention." My answer hit the floor hard, much like my face would have given the opportunity. Yami took this in, unconvinced. The telephone rang and I leaped from my seat in order to get it. Any chance to escape was a welcome one.
"Mutou residence." I used the phone in my room to answer to ensure privacy and—more importantly—distance. A check down the hall ensured Yami hadn't followed me.
"Hey, Yug! Just checking in to wish you a Merry Christmas and whatnot." Jou's voice was a comfort and I lay back on my bed with relief.
"Merry Christmas to you, too, Jou. It's been… interesting, for sure."
"Oh?" There was some shuffling in the background as Jou presumably took a seat. "And why is that? Ryou's gift wasn't something bad or anything, was it?"
"No, not at all. It was actually pretty thoughtful. I'm surprised he didn't tell you."
"Well, you know Ryou," he began. "He didn't want to run the risk of anyone ruining the surprise, so he didn't tell any of us-Huh?" Jou's voice faded out and a second one joined in the background. From the dry tone, I guessed it was Kaiba.
"What do you mean he told you?! Why would he bother telling you and not me?!" There was another pause in the background before the receiver was dropped completely. "I would not tell! And you're a jerk fer not telling me yourself!"
"Jou!" I had to repeat his name several times before getting to him. When he got back on the line, I waited for his breath to steady before speaking again.
"It was a photo album, though I haven't been able to find out what was in it. I know he liked it, but something happened while he was looking at it." My mind recalled the look he'd given me after opening the gift. I had to bury my face in the pillow to cover its flush.
"Oh? Like what?"
"I don't know." I shifted to be sure my voice wasn't muffled. "He got really quiet and stone faced once he saw what it was. And when I tried to get his attention the first time, he just looked at me before going back to it. I can't even describe what happened afterward. I have to see what Ryou put in that thing but Yami keeps thwarting my efforts. I even tried the Jedi mind-trick thing and got nothing out of-"
"You tried what?" Jou interrupted. Surprise made me pause.
"…The Jedi Mind-trick. From Star Wars? Remember that movie we saw a few weeks ago?"
"Yeah, I remember." Jou's laughter threatened to overwhelm his words. "I just can't believe you actually thought that would work!"
My expression soured with this response. Slightly annoyed, I asked; "What do you mean?"
"Yug, c'mon! The force?! What gave you the idea that that magic hoo-do even exists, nonetheless works?!"
"Well, I don't know Jou," I began, rising from the bed. "Maybe the fact that I solved an ancient Egyptian puzzle and a 3,000 year old Pharaoh spirit popped out and inhabited my body helped my faith on this one."
His response was brief. "…Maybe it just takes practice."
The conversation with Jou failed to invigorate me as my call with Ryou had earlier. My bouts of weirdness had to be raising Yami's suspicions by now. I just had to lay low for the rest of the day in the hope that he'd forget my little foray into Jedi-dom. A commotion downstairs drew me out of my room. Suitcases and boxes of merchandise were spread around the once clean living room with my grandfather waiting near the door.
"Grandpa!" I launched myself at him, glad to have him back. Less work around the house for me! "Welcome back!"
His hug was just as enthusiastic. "Merry Christmas, Yugi! It's a relief to finally be home. You and Yami will have to help me sort through all this product in the morning. Though speaking of Yami, where did he go? He helped me carry everything in…"
"Yami? He's…" I searched around and caught a glimpse of tri-colored hair disappear into his room. I saw that the Egypt book was gone from the chair as well as the photo album…
"He's putting his gifts in his room." Something in my tone gave away just how awed I was (I had the chance to see the album at last!) because Grandpa looked concerned.
"Yes, and you should, too." I made a step toward the stairs in my enthusiasm, but Grandpa caught me with a hand on the shoulder. "Right after you help me make dinner."
"So when are going to start working on the new store, Grandpa?" The three of us sat around the dining room table and enjoyed the best meal we'd had in awhile. My cooking was far from terrible, but it didn't compare much to my grandfather's cooking. I wanted to avoid discussing what we'd been up to, so I had steered the conversation toward renovations.
"They'll be starting right after the new year. That way they'll be working while you're in school."
"And what exactly are the changes going to be, Sugoroku-san?" Yami paused in his eating to ask the question and I admired how serious and business-like he could be.
"Well, both the contractors and I agreed that adding a game room would be beneficial. They've talked me into making it bigger, though, probably twelve tables instead of the original eight I'd settled on. I decided that with all the extra space, I could sell the competition games in that room and use the main store for more casual or one player games."
"The extra profit won't hurt either, will it Grandpa?" My observation garnered a chuckle on his end. Money always helped fund his decisions.
"Very true, Yugi. Though it won't only profit me. It helps all of us." He glanced at Yami and I to confirm the information. The store kept us comfortable, so we didn't deny it. Grown serious, he pushed his plate forward and waited for Yami to look at him.
"Sugoroku-san?" Yami wasn't used to the attention from my grandfather and under the elder's gaze, he sat taller.
"Don't feel required to answer yes to this, Yami, but I did have another motivation for expanding the size of the game room. I was hoping that in addition to helping me run the store, you would consider teaching classes or running tournaments for me. You have a name that would draw a good amount of people here. Plus, it would be something to keep you busy once Yugi goes to university." Grandpa returned to his food as Yami thought it over. The offer surprised me, though I could see the benefits. The decision was up to him.
"Just something to think about. No need to answer now." Grandpa returned to eating and we followed his lead. The rest of dinner passed in silence with requests for one dish or another being the only disturbance.
"Grandpa, can I be excused? I'll put my presents away." There was nothing outwardly suspicious about the question so he let me go without a thought. Because I had helped to cook, Yami had dishes duty. This left me with plenty of time to go upstairs, toss my presents in a corner, and get a glimpse at the album.
I stayed true to my word and gathered my presents together. The gift Yami had been so desperate to wrap that morning had turned out to be a pair of shower sandals for college. American movies had inspired him, too it seemed. He made sure to cite "Can't Hardly Wait" and the particular piece of advice regarding the item as I had opened it. Shaking my head, I proceeded to my room to deposit the various goods. I checked to make sure both Yami and Grandpa were in the kitchen before crossing the hall to Yami's room. I didn't even turn on the light in the hope that any suspicion would be doused by the darkness.
It took a little fumbling, but I managed to find the album deposited underneath one of his pillows. How comfortable it was going to be there I couldn't imagine. I sat on the bed and used the moonlight to reveal the pictures. The cover was beautiful, a deep red with curlicues sewn in gold thread along the cover. The same picture Yami had framed beside his bed was on the cover – I'd have to ask Ryou how he got a hold of that particular photo. The first several pages had the whole group or parts of it together with him, many of them taken during our various adventures. A picture of Yami and I asleep on the couch during a sleepover was a bit suspicious, my body curled into a ball and leaning against his, but I doubted any serious feeling could be taken from it. My heart froze when I turned to the last page.
Like the other photos, it was in black and white, the edges held in place by white photo corners. The picture had been taken only a few days ago while we were at the club. I had no idea how Ryou had brought a camera along and used it without our noticing but his timing with it had been dead on. Yami's back was turned to me, heading to the bar after our efforts on the dance floor. The feeling of hopelessness I'd felt at the moment returned in full force: It was all there in the photo. The longing on my face was unmistakable, the one tear having already run its course down my face. But it was Yami's expression that finished me. Despite the certainty I had felt then at his obliviousness, Yami's face was distorted, his eyes closed and lips drawn tightly together. It almost looked like he was holding himself back from something. From me.
I couldn't believe it. He knew how I felt. He'd known all along. If he didn't, the evidence was right there for him.
And he was struggling to tell me he didn't feel the same. I drew up my knees and buried my face against the pages. It was over.
A sliver of light appeared beneath the album. Several moments passed before I realized what it meant. I was slow to uncurl and face what waited me in the glare. I finally looked over my shoulder and there he was. Stoic and somber, Yami leaned against the doorframe, a single finger remaining on the light switch.
So here it was at last; the end of the game.
A/N: But not the end of the story. I think there's going to be one more chapter after this one with the possibility of a one-shot sequel from Yami's POV in the works. Thank you for reading this chapter and be sure to let me know what you think!