Title:A Christmas Ritual
Summary:Snow fights and magic a happy Christmas makes. Yami/Yugi.
Author's Notes:Hugs and love to Jordan, who betaed. More at the bottom.
It was undeniably Christmas.
Yugi could smell it in the pine of the short tree in the sitting room, in the plates of food Mrs. Gardener sent via Tea. He could see it in the Christmas lights turning the floor into a klaidescope, in the coat and mittens he hadn't bothered to hang up yet.
Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. The pharaoh's first, as it so happened.
Yami stood by the window, staring at the street with an expression of mystification. Yugi might have thought that the snow was puzzling him, but they had that conversation when it began falling last night. It had to be something else.
Smiling, Yugi crawled into the recliner at Yami's side, propping the plate of Gardener-leftovers on the back. "Want some, Yami?"
Yami turned from his perusal of the window. "Hm?"
"Food." Yugi pointed to the plate and took the opportunity to snatch up a bit of ham. Cinnamon, pineapples, cloves, and melted sugar. Usually the combination would wrinkle his nose, but combined with the meat, it was excellent. "Want some?"
Yami watched him with puzzled awe. "What is it?"
"Food, Yami, you've seen it before." Yugi laughed as Yami stared at him. "See, you take bites, and chew, and --"
Yami took a bit of ham from Yugi's fingers. "But what kind of food?" he asked. Before Yugi could respond, he sniffed the meat tentatively.
"Ham," Yugi explained, amused. Yami was obviously unsure about the whole thing. "Come on, try it. I dare you."
Yami took the ham away from his mouth. "After so much time with Joey and Tristan?" he asked. "I know better than that." His lips were twitching, though.
"I thought you were the Game King," Yugi teased. "Never thought I'd see you running from a dare."
Yami popped the ham in his mouth without another word. Yugi laughed and took a bite of his own piece, watching Yami's expression -- cautious, then thoughtful, then pleased. When he swallowed, Yugi handed him another piece.
"Thank you," Yami said. He perched on the arm of the recliner, craning his neck to peer out the window.
"What are you looking at?" Yugi asked. He turned the plate so that Yami could reach the ham and started on the peanut butter fudge and Divinity. He strained to see the street, but he was too short.
"Just the people," Yami said absently. "The children."
"What are they doing?"
"Throwing snow at each other," Yami said ruefully. "I didn't believe you when you said it was normal."
Yugi laughed. They ate in silence for a moment, Yugi simply enjoying Yami's rare good cheer and his own happiness. There came a series of thumps from Grandpa's room -- they turned their ears towards the sound, but then the radio was playing loudly and they stopped, lest they overhear Grandpa singing.
"He's cleaning," Yugi said when Yami looked baffled. "He does it every Christmas."
"Why?" Yami nicked a piece of Divinity and inspected the white stuff analytically, sniffing and poking with professional care. "I thought it was a holiday, your Christmas."
"It is. Grandpa says that during the year we neglect the apartment to take care of the shop, so he always spends Christmas cleaning." His expression said that he clearly found this logic lacking.
"He doesn't make you help?"
"Not anymore." Yugi offered Yami some fudge after he swallowed the Divinity, scowling. "I just manage the door and thank people who bring food." My friends, he thought but did not say. A short while ago, he'd had none. But today had been a whirlwind of Merry Christmas-es and presents -- Tristan and Bakura both stopped by, Joey and Serenity called from their mom's, Tea delivered food . . . and of course, there was Yami.
At the moment, he was looking out the window again.
Yugi licked the last of the fudge and juice from his fingers and said, "Do you want to go outside?"
Yami glanced at him briefly, then double-taked and watched Yugi clean himself like a kitten.
"That would be pleasant," he finally said.
Yugi beamed at him and jumped up. "Then let's go!"
He put the plate back into the kitchen and washed his hands quickly. A warm glow touched his chest somewhere between the sink and the living room -- when he grabbed his coat a moment later, the living room was empty.
Grandpa appeared in the hallway, an apron tied over his overalls and a feather duster in his hand. He stopped humming long enough to ask, "Are you going out?"
"For a little while," Yugi said, concentrating fiercely on his buttons. The tip of his tongue peeked out of his mouth as he struggled to fasten them through his mittens. "To see the snow."
"Where's the pharaoh?" Grandpa asked, peering about.
Yugi tapped himself on the chest and darted for the door. "See you, Grandpa!"
"Don't stay out too long!"
Yugi waved and darted down the stairs.
"It's so cold."
Yugi jumped and looked over his shoulder. Yami was tossing a small handful of snow from hand to hand, face alight with wonder.
"Well, it is frozen water," Yugi observed ruefully. "And speaking of cold, aren't you a bit chilly, Yami? You're not even wearing a coat!"
In fact, Yami was wearing the sleeveless black top that Yugi wisely kept beneath three other layers. He didn't seem bothered, however, and just shrugged.
Yugi grabbed his own handful of snow and started packing it into a ball. Yami kept playing with the snow, innocently unaware.
"So what do you think of it, Yami?" he asked, grinning. "The snow, I mean."
Yami didn't seem to hear him. He was gazing at the small pile of slush in his hands and said, "It melts when you touch it," apropos of nothing.
"It melts when you throw it, too," Yugi said, and promptly demonstrated.
Distracted he might be, but Yami was always willing to accept a challenge. A small but furious snowball fight erupted, the two of them shouting and pelting each other with almost inhuman speed. As he ducked behind a snowman some child had left behind, Yugi wondered what others would see if they happened upon the two of them. Two boys having a snowball fight? Or one boy having a snowball fight with himself?
Sometimes Yugi was quite certain that people could see Yami. They sidestepped him on the street, made eye-contact with him, even brushed against him. Perhaps they merely didn't realize that he was see-through. But then he would ask Joey or the others, and they would swear that Yami was only there for Yugi -- a clearly defined presence, to be sure, but invisible.
"Are you forfeiting, Yugi?" Yami taunted.
Yugi grinned and scanned the small copse of woods for his dark. "Not quite," he said. "Maybe I'm just calling you out, Yami."
He heard a soft laugh and the crunch of boots on snow. "How do you decide who loses, anyway?" Yami asked.
"Whoever collapses first," Yugi said with a laugh. "Or whoever claims they can hear their parents calling and has to go inside and warm up."
"Ah." Yami's voice was very close. Yugi hurriedly packed himself a snowball. "In which case, I have an unfair advantage."
"I'll win away!" Yugi called, and jumped from behind his snowman. A snowball hit him in the chest even as he sent his flying -- he heard Yami laugh and kicked up a plume of snow, before running to hide behind a tree. More laughter.
Ten minutes later, Yugi collapsed into the snow. "I give! I lose! I'm going to die, help, Yami!"
Yami chuckled and sat on a bench, stretching his legs out. Yugi hauled himself up and plopped down on the wood with a sigh of relief, bundling his coat tighter against the cold. A burst of wind gusted suddenly, and Yugi noticed something.
"Yami! You're shivering!"
Yami turned from his inspection of a tree branch. "I'm fine."
"But you're obviously cold!" Yugi protested, leaning forward. "Your teeth are even chattering! Let me see your hands."
This last was said so commandingly that not even Yami could argue. He held his hands out for Yugi's inspection -- when Yugi wrapped his wet mittens around them, he felt an absurd surge of relief. It hadn't even occurred to him when he asked that Yami might not be solid. He wasn't, sometimes, and he was a little touchy when Yugi mentioned it.
Yugi checked his dark's fingers thoroughly. "Your fingertips are blue," he finally pronounced.
Yami leaned forward to look at them closely. "Are they?"
"They're bluish," Yugi said firmly. "Kind of. You're going to . . . I don't know, get frostbite or something. Can you get frostbite?"
Yugi stood. "We'd better go home," he said. "I don't want you to get sick or something."
"I don't think I will," Yami said at last. He removed his hand from Yugi's palm. "Sit back down, at least for a little while."
Yugi was unhappy, but he obeyed. Still concerned, he pulled off his damp mittens and took Yami's hand again -- startled, both of them blinked.
"Your hands are cold," Yami said.
"Your hands aren't," Yugi exclaimed. "But the snow . . . how is that possible?"
Yami looked at their joined hands and then clasped Yugi's fingers tightly in his, warming them. "I don't know."
"You're like a furnace," Yugi said, awed. The heat from Yami's hands felt so good it almost hurt. "It's like you've been sunbathing, not playing in the snow. That's really incredible, Yami."
Yami smiled and drew away from Yugi. "I guess all that time in the desert left it's mark," he said neutrally.
Yugi beamed. Yami never talked about Egypt; he must be in a good mood.
They were silent for a moment, Yami shivering occaisionally, Yugi a little trembly with cold. Finally, Yugi asked, "What do you remember about it?"
Yami seemed to have been expecting the question. "Not much," he said. "Heat, light. Sand."
"I guess cold is pretty new, huh?"
"Very new," Yami said. He reached out and touched a branch above Yugi's head -- Yugi wrinkled his nose as snow drifted into his face. He licked a stray flake from his bottom lip and watched Yami's clever fingers trace the twigs.
"Did they have anything like Christmas in Egypt?" Yugi inquired. Yami's hands were slender and long, graceful. Duelists hands. Yugi's were small and fat, like his Grandpa. He tugged his mittens back on to hide them.
"Not quite." Yami's eyes were distant. "I remember . . ."
Yugi waited in respectful silence, but Yami didn't continue. Finally, Yugi looked up at the tree branch and changed the subject. "It's covered in ice," he said.
Yami let it go. "Yes," he agreed. His eyes were troubled. "I wasn't sure if that's what it was, ice."
"Let's go home," Yugi suggested, blinking as a rainbow bounced from the ice into his eyes. He glanced over at the winter sun with a hint of impatience. "I'm cold."
The warmth in his chest was his answer. He walked home in silence, alone as far as the eye could see.
"The Celebration of the Dead."
Yugi looked up from the Christmas card he'd received from Tea -- he'd been re-reading it for the seventh or eighth time. "What?"
"The holiday." Yami was pacing back and forth in front of his bed. "That I used to celebrate in Egypt."
Yugi set the card aside. "What was it for?" he asked. "What happened during it?"
"Feasts," Yami said. He paused in his pacing as he thought. "They would last for days. I can remember presiding over them, without sleep, for almost a week . . ."
"Wow," Yugi murmured, eyes wide.
"Coffins would be passed around," Yami continued. "To honor the dead. And songs were sung, I think, hymns." He started pacing again. "There were rituals."
"Rituals?" Yugi asked, alarmed, thinking of the Shadow Games. "Like -- magic rituals?"
"No." Yami stopped pacing and sat beside him on the bed, staring forward as Yugi faced him. "Like . . . the ritual of opening presents, or decorating your tree."
"Oh." Yugi straightened. "Do you want to have a ritual?"
Startled, Yami looked at him. "What?"
"A ritual for the Celebration of the Dead!" When Yami looked confused, Yugi continued. "We can both do it. If you remember any, that is." Yami was silent. "And if you want to. It just seems fair . . ."
"Yes," Yami said, nodding.
Yugi smiled at him. "So, what's the ritual? And you have to tell me what it's for."
Yami thought for a long moment. "I only remember one," he said reluctantly. "It was a blessing from the Pharaoh to his High Priest, or at least one of them. To protect them from vengeful spirits and give them luck . . ." He looked uncertain. "I . . . perhaps I should think of another."
"Why not that one?" Yugi asked eagerly. "It sounds good."
Yami looked at him for a long moment and then said faintly, "No reason."
Yugi stood. "What do I have to do?" he asked.
"Just stand there," Yami said, getting to his feet. "You repeat the words after I say them, and then say them for me to repeat."
"Is that all?" Yugi asked, startled. It seemed too simple.
"Almost," Yami said mysteriously. Yugi shrugged and stood straight, waiting for the ritual to begin.
Yami was silent for a moment, collecting his thoughts. He put his hands on Yugi's shoulders suddenly, clasping them tightly. Their eyes were almost level.
Yami murmured something in another language. Yugi waited patiently, and then his dark said, "I, with the pharaoh's power . . ."
Yugi waited again, then started a little. "Oh! I, with the pharaoh's power . . ."
Yami was smiling faintly. "Grant you safety, protection, and health . . ."
"Grant you safety, protection and health . . ."
"In the power of the pharaoh's name, so long as it is hidden," Yami finished quietly. The smile was gone from his eyes.
"In the power of the pharaoh's name, so long as it is hidden," Yugi said, sadly. Yami's name would always be hidden -- every one of their attempts to find it had ended in disaster.
Yami hesitated, his hands still resting on Yugi's shoulders. His eyes moved from Yugi's eyes to his face to the floor. He whispered, "So be it."
Yami leaned forward and kissed Yugi on the right cheek, the left, and then the forehead. And as Yugi blinked and something inexplicable bubbled beneath his skin, Yami kissed him on the lips.
The pharaoh drew back, his hands fell to his side.
"It's my turn?" Yugi asked shakily.
"I - I do it just like, just like you did?" Yugi asked.
"I'm not -- messing it up by talking, am I?"
Yami shook his head, mouth sealed.
Yugi nodded to himself and rested his hands carefully on Yami's shoulders. It took him a moment to cast his thoughts back -- voice still a little wavery, he said, "I, with the pharaoh's power . . ."
Yami was silent a beat too long, and then said, voice low, "I, with the pharaoh's power . . ."
"Grant you safety, protection, a-nd health . . ." Yugi wasn't sure if those were the right words.
"Grant you safety, protection, and health," Yami parroted softly.
"In the power of the pharaoh's name, so long as it is hidden," Yugi said quickly. He tightened his grip a little on Yami's shoulders, trying to prepare his nerve.
"In the power of the pharaoh's name, so long as it is hidden," Yami said.
There was a long pause. Their eyes met briefly, and Yami stepped back -- nervous, Yugi let his hands fall. Yami started to turn away.
"Did I mess it --"
"No," Yami said.
"But I didn't do it right," Yugi persisted. "I didn't . . . finish it."
"The power is in the meaning," Yami said, voice unusually soft. "As long as that is pure, then the ritual itself is insignificant."
Yugi had the haunting feeling that his meaning hadn't been pure -- he'd barely even been thinking about meaning, he'd been thinking about kissing. But he nodded, and tried not to notice the uncomfortable silence, or the abrupt way that Yami vanished, disappearing back into Yugi's body.
"Grandpa, I think you're trying to tell me something," Yugi said, amused. His presents -- most of them Duel Monsters cards -- spilled over his lap and onto the floor.
"What's that?" Grandpa asked. "That you're the best duelist I know?"
"That might be it," Yugi said. He grinned over his shoulder at his dark, who sat behind him on the couch. "Although a large part of that is Yami, too, Grandpa."
"Hmmm," Grandpa murmured. "Well, those gifts are for him, too."
Yami was staring at the window. He half-glanced at Yugi and said, "Tell him I said thank you."
"He says thanks," Yugi passed along, turning to grin at his Grandpa. "And me too."
This earned him a hair-ruffle. Grandpa headed for his room. "Get to bed soon," he advised. "You'll be tired in the morning."
Yugi nodded and looked thoughtfully at the tin of butter cookies on the table, wondering how many of them he could eat and still hope to sleep. When the door to Grandpa's room shut, the silence seemed very loud.
"Aren't the cards nice?" Yugi finally asked.
"Yes, they are." Yami looked down at them as Yugi spread them over the table and grabbed a handful of cookies. "They're very rare."
Yugi beamed. "D'you want a cookie? And the cards are yours, too."
Yami shook his head at the cookies, to Yugi's disappointment.
"The cards are yours," he finally said. "All of them, the new ones and the ones in your deck."
Yugi looked at him, confused.
"The tree and the lights, your home," Yami continued. He was back to staring at the window -- at this angle, he probably couldn't see much besides the sky. Or maybe he was looking at the Christmas lights? "So much is yours."
Yugi set his cookies aside. "It's yours, too," he said. "I'm sharing it with you. I'm -- giving it to you."
Yami looked at him quickly, startled.
Yugi grinned. "Merry Christmas?" he suggested.
Yami smiled faintly, but didn't respond.
"I mean it," Yugi insisted. "It's all yours, too. If it's mine, then we share it, it's that simple."
"It's not that simple," Yami said. He was staring at the floor, eyes shadowed. "These things have been given to you. There's power in giving -- they belong to you, and only you, no matter who comes along, no matter who you share them with." His voice was deeply melancholy, almost mournful. Yugi wondered if he really believed that and, if he did, what it was like to live in a world surrounded by someone else's things.
"I don't think that's true," Yugi said stubbornly.
Yami glanced at him swiftly and then away. "Even the heart of the cards," he said. "You can't win with someone else's deck."
"We're partners," Yugi protested. "I'm sure the heart of the cards knows that. You win with my deck all of the time!"
Yami said nothing.
Yugi was quite adamant. He stood, gathered up his new cards, and dug his deck out of his pocket. He mixed the two piles together as Yami watched him, baffled, and then lifted Yami's hands so they were palm-up.
"I, with the pharaoh's power . . ."
Yami stared at him, startled, then echoed, "I, with the pharaoh's power . . ."
"Give you this deck," Yugi said.
"Give you this deck."
"And everything." Yami wore the saddest look he'd ever received; it hurt to see it. Yugi desperately wanted to make things better. "Everything I have, because we're partners."
"And everything I have," Yami said, "because we're partners."
Yugi put the deck in his hands. Yami's fingers closed around it carefully. He looked down at it for a moment, eyebrows coming together in a troubled expression.
Yugi forced him to look up so that he could kiss him on the right cheek, the left, and then the forehead, right where the Eye of Horus could be seen sometimes. When he kissed Yami's lips, he was trembling all over with nervous tension -- but his intention was pure, as pure as it had ever been.
Yami drew away and stood. "I, with the pharaoh's power . . ."
Yugi echoed the words of his new ritual proudly, almost fiercely. When Yami placed the deck in Yugi's hands, he clung to it, bending the cards slightly.
He closed his eyes as Yami kissed his cheeks and forehead, and kept them shut as Yami kissed his lips.
Just a brief kiss, a tiny little brush of lips. Yami pulled back and Yugi opened his eyes.
They looked at each other in silence for a long moment. Yami still had his hands on Yugi's shoulders; as they looked at each other, he trailed his fingers over Yugi's neck, his chin. Yugi tilted his face up and swayed slightly, right into Yami.
Yami kissed him again, not tiny or brief but real and warm. Yugi stood on his toes to get closer, wrapped his arms around Yami, parted his lips. The sweep of a tongue against his made him shiver -- Yami's hands sliding down his back to hold him tightly made him shiver even more.
He gasped when Yami stepped away. "I --"
"Please don't stop," Yugi whispered. Yami looked at him, stunned. Yugi could feel his face glowing with heat, but he said it again anyway. "Please?"
Yami obeyed, ducking his head to kiss Yugi's cheek, his ear, his throat. There was a little spot just above his pulse -- Yami's tongue brushed against it, his teeth followed. Yugi wrapped his fingers in Yami's shirt and tugged on him, fighting down a whimper.
They kissed again, long and slow, tangled up in each other's arms. Yugi opened his mouth willingly, gasping a little, wriggling with ticklish-sweet pleasure as Yami's tongue dueled his. For once, Yugi won, and the little taste he stole of Yami was enough to leave him faint.
They parted long enough for Yami to sit and pull Yugi down with him.
Yugi rested his knees in Yami's lap, a little awkwardly. "Um," he said. He bit his lip, savoring the tingles, and said, "I guess this is the extra-special ritual, huh?"
Yami smiled. Yugi returned it, ran his fingers over Yami's neck as they kissed again. He liked the way that Yami's arm pressed into the small of his back, how his hand rested on his hip. He liked the way that Yami nuzzled a kiss into his shoulder and the little sound he won from his dark when he cuddled close, as close as he could get.
A while later, they were sitting in silence, and Yugi realized that Yami was looking out the window yet again. He really must find out what Yami was watching -- when he glanced at it, all he saw was the night sky, overcast with clouds, Christmas lights from across the street, and their reflections, close together and warm-looking.
Yugi let his eyes drift shut. Yes, it certainly was Christmas, and it was lovely . . . the room was quiet, the air warm, the smells and lights were perfect. There was Yami. And now Yugi knew how it felt to be a cup, overflowing with something warm and sweet.
When he glanced up at Yami to see what he was thinking, he found him fast asleep. He'd never seen him sleep before -- usually, he did that in Yugi's mind. Obscurely fascinated, Yugi watched him for a long moment.
He eventually roused Yami gently, smiling as he blinked about with endearing confusion. "Let's get some sleep, huh?"
Yami nodded, kissed him one last time, and vanished. Yugi touched the puzzle at his chest and smiled to himself. Yes, he'd share everything with Yami, from his home to his things to his body. There's power in giving. Wasn't that what Yami had said?
Warm and tingly all over, happy, Yugi gathered up his gifts and went to bed.
A/N: 1) The 'Celebration of the Dead' that Yami talks about is mostly lifted from Anne Rice's book The Queen of the Damned, with a few of my own embellishments. I was going to do research and find out if there was actually any such celebration (and when it was held), but it was so crucial to the story that I didn't really care if there was one or not, I needed it anyway. So I didn't. (Translation: I'm lazy.)
2) Do I really think the Ancient Egyptians had a ritual that involved smoochin' each other? Nah. There are two reasons it was in this fic, you can pick whichever you like. The first is that Yami simply fibbed and tacked that last kiss on so he could snuggle up with the Yugster. The second is for the Yami/Seto shippers -- maybe the 'High Priest' that Yami mentioned performing the the ritual with was Seto, and they simply got used to kissing each other afterwards. ;}
3) I borrowed two ideas from other writers for this fic. Neither of them feature majorly, but just in case you're interested . . . . The idea that Yami isn't always 'solid' was borrowed from Ms. Rice once again (Blackwood Farm, specifically). She mentions how the attention that a person pays to a ghost/spirit determines their solidity. I figured that Yugi isn't always paying a lot of attention to Yami, and that was why he would be extra-transparent at times, much to Yami's hurt and annoyance.
The second lifted idea factored into the rituals. Yami said, "The power is in the meaning. As long as that is pure, then the ritual itself is insignificant." That concept and my entire idea of ritual magic has been heavily influenced by the Harry/Draco HP epic Transfigurations. If you haven't read it, go do so.
4) What was Yami looking at when he was staring out the window? Who knows. But the odds are good that he wasn't staring at a cloudy night sky, or the Christmas lights. Do the math. ;)
5) Happy Holidays, ya'll.