Title: Tears of the Phoenix part 1
Author: Sorceress Fantasia
Pairings: S/Y, eventual YYxY, SxJ and maybe some others
Warnings: Angst, romance, sap, some OOC-ness, probably some historical incorrectness
Disclaimer: If my desire to own YGO were proportionate to the size of the world's deserts, there would have been at least two more Sahara Deserts. Since that has not happened, I must say that I do not own YGO and any of its characters.
Note: I really have no idea how palace life in ancient Egypt was like, so I'm just making up everything in this fic. Erm, just take it as some artistic license. The searches I did didn't really turn up any good information…
Intro: Set in the land of the black soil, Yugi is a servant in Pharaoh Atemu's palace and also, high priest Seto's secret lover. Hidden by his lover, Yugi has never seen the pharaoh or experienced palace intrigues. However, that is about to change…
Yugi peeked around his surroundings. Willing his pounding heart to calm down, he reminded himself that this was the most isolated part of the entire palace, and that he had never been discovered before. And it had been quite a long while already, since he first started to sneak away from his job to come here. Mentally, he counted the months.
Almost like a stroke of magic, a sprinkle of stardust, he remembered. Seven magical months, indeed. Had it been so long since he'd become a servant in the palace, after being rescued from the rotting prison cells for stealing merely a loaf of bread to quench his days of hunger?
He nearly shivered; the jail cells were in dire need of a revamp. Or a big clean up, at least. But getting caught had certainly turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
Although the experience of sitting in the jail cell and waiting for the executioners to come chop off his hands for stealing wasn't all that great, what followed was definitely well worth the little bit of discomfort. Who would have thought that the high priest of Kemet would visit the cells that day to punish another prisoner? And who would have imagined their eyes would meet, cool, hard cobalt locking with sweet amethyst?
It was just infatuation at first on the other's part, Yugi was sure. After all, it wasn't the first time someone had been captivated by his peculiar eye colour. He always knew something bad was going to come his way every time someone zoomed in onto his eyes, praising the magnificent shade and marvel at the sparkle that glinted like a hint of mischief. Whenever that happened, Yugi made it his instincts to immediately hightail out of the place because whoever the other person was, be it a man or a woman, it just meant that they wanted him like a wolf wanting a piece of raw meet.
So when the high priest's eyes sought his, Yugi had been wary of the man at first; something, he thought, wasn't quite right. But somehow, the man managed to thwart his wariness easily with just a glance. The high priest was so stunningly handsome –the rumours on the streets really didn't do him justice- that Yugi could hardly tear his eyes away.
The dignified air he exuded complemented his tall stature like a rainbow in the blue sky, giving him a noble aura that Yugi easily felt. But that wasn't it. Tempting broad chest, sharp nose, and eyes that reflected an inner tranquility despite the chaotic surroundings… it was like a dream come true. But the real icing on the cake was the man's arms that looked strong enough to lead him out of the filthy, hectic world outside of the stiff palace gates.
His intense staring was probably what caused the high priest to turn his head and see him for the first time. When their eyes locked, Yugi could swear there was a little magic in the air that caused him to feel all light headed and weaken his knees.
Seto probably felt the same.
Yugi grinned at the name. He loved how it sounded, and how it seemed to roll off his tongue like a sweet treat. Most of all though, he loved the owner of that name.
Seto was truly his saviour. Not only did he rescue him from the prison (that was easily done by exercising a bit of his powers and scaring the guards; after all, he was the high priest of Kemet), but he also gave him a place to stay and a job to do. Granted, it was menial labour, but there was nothing else he could do. Having lived on the streets all his life, all he ever knew was thievery, escaping and the occasional puppy eye look that made almost anyone lower their defenses. So when Seto had offered him food on the table and a roof over his head, he agreed immediately.
The only thing he wasn't exactly thrilled about was where he really worked.
With the size of the palace grounds, one would be lucky if one could see the whole place once through. With his luck though, Yugi had never left the east wing. And just who made the east wing the most boring district of the palace anyway? Nothing ever happened there, simply because it wasn't where the pharaoh resided and worked in. Yugi swore the entire world revolved around the pharaoh. As a result, all the hustle and bustle happened in the north wing and part of the west wing. Clothes were washed there, food was cooked there, work was done there… Even the royal garden, the only part of the palace that spanned across all four wings, was only lively in the north and western parts. The east wing was just another fancy name for servant's quarters, and it was the smallest out of the many ones they had in the palace. Most of Yugi's job just consisted of sweeping the floor, making the bed and feeding the few animals the servants were allowed to rear.
Still, he had a sneaking suspicion that Seto had something to do with his workload.
In fact, the only reason why he was assigned to the east wing was because of the overprotective man who wanted him to have nothing to do with snobbish concubines, haughty servants, evil councils and most of all, an annoying pharaoh. Sometimes, Yugi felt like he was a little secret Seto had fenced up in the east wing that no one was allowed to know about. But really, he was hardly in a position to argue about that. He was happy with his life, Seto was happy with it, and that was all there was to it.
Seriously though, Yugi thought that he was much more fortunate than the other street kids who were still struggling with life outside of the palace, wondering if their fellow street kids would wake up with them or die in their sleep, and if they would get any food that day. With a lot of help from Seto, Yugi had finally passed that stage of his life and was guaranteed food and rest everyday. What was more, he had Seto's love. After saving him from the prison cells, Seto dropped by occasionally – and secretly – to see him so as to make sure that he was treated fine. Eventually, the high priest admitted that he had done so with the intention of just seeing Yugi and that he loved him. Yugi was so touched he found no reason to deny his love as well.
And to think the only thought in his mind before all that was if that loaf of bread in his hands would be enough to feed his growling stomach…
Putting those thoughts aside, Yugi continued running across the east wing garden. If he didn't hurry, he'd be late and Seto would gripe about it. Offhandedly, but still gripe about it. He ran faster, hoping that no one would see him.
But it wasn't the first time he was doing this! Surely, he wasn't going to get discovered!
Now, if only he could get his pounding heart to believe that…
Arriving in the part of the royal gardens located in the east wing, Yugi was relieved when he saw no one was there yet. Good, that meant he wasn't late. While he always had too much time at hand, Seto was always pressed for time. If the gods did not have a message for him, the pharaoh would have a job for him all of a sudden. Or there'd be an argument between the council members, and he'd have to step and arbitrate. Just why was Seto so burdened with work?
Yugi sighed. The man needed to take a break sometimes, really. He was working so hard Yugi was afraid he'd fall ill, and with himself stuck in the east wing, there was no way he could take care of him. Besides, he wanted to spend a little more time with Seto!
Suddenly, he felt himself lifted into the air by a pair of strong arms. Memories kicked in, as did his street instincts. His initial reaction was to scream and slip away as fast as he could, but the warmth the body behind emitted calmed him down almost immediately. There was only one place where he could feel such security and affection.
True enough, there was the high priest holding him tightly in his arms, a faint smile dancing on his lips.
"Yugi," he returned, retreating into the shade quickly with the little one still secure in his arms. Then, he carefully sat down on the ground, shifting Yugi into his laps.
"I've missed you," Yugi whispered, snuggling into Seto's broad chest and grasping a little of his blue linen shirt in his fist. "Work has been incredibly boring these last couple of days, and the other servants say I haven't been paying attention. Well, I just couldn't help it! Not when I was so looking forward to seeing you today!"
Seto chuckled, ruffling Yugi's bangs almost playfully. He stopped when his hand was swatted away with mock annoyance.
"You should pay more attention when you're working, little one. What if you injured yourself because you were spacing out? What would the others say?"
"Well, probably 'Yugi's being Yugi again,'" the younger teen chimed, mimicking a reprimanding and yet resigned tone of the other servants. He grinned. "I'm known for being clumsy /and/ having a wild imagination."
Seto smirked, shaking his head. Leaning into a tree trunk, he tightened his embrace. For a while, they just sat there, feeling the warmth of the other's body and the light breeze whispering against their skin. It was this moment in time, this stilled second, that the two could feel the weariness of their work fade away and just bask in the other's glory.
Yugi snuggled closer.
The high priest looked into the sky. Just a while more, and the sun would be dipping into the horizon. He sighed; it was almost time and he had to leave. The pharaoh was probably already wondering where he had disappeared to.
But it wasn't too bad. At least he managed to scrap a few moments with Yugi today, and even to just sit down for a while and rest. Looking down at the one he adored still snuggled in his arms, he smiled. All that work he did was worth it if he could just visit Yugi frequently.
He still remembered how they had met. It was just a prison cell, a stolen glance, a static moment, and he was in love. Never had he felt such emotions warring in his body and mind the instant his eyes fell on the angelic being staring back at him, his radiance intact despite the ugly surroundings. How he wished he could just bring Yugi to his side, but it was just not to be such an easy task. Before he figured out how to, Yugi would have to stay in the east wing where it was safe.
Suddenly, Yugi spoke.
"Have you been very busy the last few days? I almost thought we wouldn't be able to meet at all this week."
Seto sighed softly, running a careless hand through his mob of brown hair. He had almost thought so too, when he found his work getting piled up higher and higher with each day. The work was getting intolerable; he usually managed to finish his assigned duties and still meet Yugi at least twice a week, but recently, he was getting so bogged down it wasn't even funny anymore. Keeping a hand wounded around Yugi's waist, he pulled him closer.
"That would be an understatement, little one. The pharaoh has been very restless recently, and the few of us has had to convince him to attend court once or twice. I think he's in a bad mood, but I've no idea why. Isis thinks that he's lonely and tired, but he's probably just bored." Seto shrugged, as if it would ease away the fatigue that had accompanied him the last few days. Sometimes, he felt like flaying the skins of those people who thought he had an easy job in the palace. Easy? Like hell! Politics was one thing, and palace intrigues was another. But he could deal with those. The worst was when the pharaoh Atemu threw up a temper. Woe betided those who stood in his way when that happened.
Suddenly, he felt a gentle hand massaging his temples and the exhaustion of the day seemed to just fade away like leaves in the wind.
"Aa, thank you, Yugi."
When Yugi threw him a smile, Seto felt all that much better. It was strange how the little one could revitalize his energy with just a heartfelt smile, one that easily put the ones the concubines plastered on to shame. He frowned when he remembered just how some of those women, and some of those who were still a member of the harem, threw themselves at Atemu's feet like little rag dolls with no sense of decency. They practically worshipped the ground Atemu walked upon, not just as pious believers of the living embodiment of Horus, but also as women who craved for the man's affections like stranded travelers in a desert yearning for water, as fickle as they could be.
But sometimes, he could hardly blame any of them. Those young women had been brought into the palace to serve Atemu after he became pharaoh two years ago, some probably against their will. And if that wasn't bad enough, he knew for a fact that most of them had never even seen hide or hind of the young pharaoh. Once they had been brought in, they were all housed in a section in the west wing as a member of Atemu's harem, doomed to live out a lonely life like a widow. The few lucky ones who had been made concubines were made only because the council pressed Atemu to do so, but they were still just for show only. None of them had ever seen the insides of Atemu's bedroom after their first night.
Sometimes, Seto wondered if Atemu was asexual.
"Seto? What are you thinking about?"
Yugi's soft voice knocked him out of his trance.
"Hmm? Nothing much, just the way the palace works."
"And how does it work? You've never told me before," Yugi asked.
"Well, it's a dark place where people fight for the pharaoh's favour with whatever methods they have available. You'd really get to see the ugly side of human nature when you're working there. That's why I don't ever want you to be near the north and west wings. Those people there would just taint your innocent soul, and I'd probably be very upset."
It was frustratingly irritating how Seto could turn their conversation into yet another speech on his reasons for keeping him hidden in the east wing. Yugi pouted mentally.
"But if I work there, I'd see you a lot more! As it is, we can only meet up twice a week. And why can't I just be your personal servant or something? Why am I kept a secret here?"
Seto sighed. "If anyone discovers our relationship, you'd probably find yourself in quite a bit of danger. I do have some enemies in the court. Besides, I don't want any gossip around. I already have enough to deal with. I promise you, Yugi, that I will marry you as soon as I can get the pharaoh to agree. He's just being a brat lately. And to answer your other question, I can't let you be my personal servant for two reasons. Firstly, I already have a personal servant and I can't turn him away since the pharaoh bestowed him upon me. You just cannot refuse a gift from the pharaoh, even if it is a bag of poisonous snakes. And secondly, I think I'd go crazy with you so close to me constantly and yet" – he smirked mischievously – "not able to kiss you."
As he expected, Yugi turned red. Not that that wasn't a good thing; he loved to see Yugi blushing.
Taking his chance, he swooped in for a chaste kiss, pressing his lips against his young lover's gently and waited for his cue.
Yugi was quickly turning into a happy puddle of mush in Seto's arms. The kiss, though innocent, sent bolts of thrilling electrifying pleasure through his body and he moaned. Opening his mouth, he hummed softly, coaxing his lover to deepen their kiss. When Seto pushed his tongue into his warmth cavern, Yugi could only moan his satisfaction. It tasted so sweet.
They parted after a moment, gasping for air. Despite that, they both sported wide grins on their faces that almost seemed goofy.
"I love you, Seto."
"And I you, Yugi."
They kissed again.
The high priest was flaming annoyed right now. Whatever happened to his power as a messenger of god, as a member of the pharaoh's court? Oh yes. Anyone and everyone would be reduced to practically nothing when said king was not happy. Like he was now.
"Yes, your majesty?" he obligingly replied like a docile servant. He snorted at his own tone. Docile? How insulting. And to think they were cousins… just because his father had been born after Atemu's father, he became the high priest instead of the pharaoh. If he had been luckier, he'd probably have an easier time with Atemu's temper because then, he'd be the ruler instead. And then his little cousin's flaring temper could go to hell for all he cared.
Well, not exactly. If one ignored Atemu's notoriously irritating temper tantrums, he was actually a rather interesting person to be around with. And he did owe him for his position as the high priest of Kemet, since he was the one who appointed him.
Seriously though, if he were the pharaoh, he'd probably have married Yugi already.
But since he wasn't, Seto had to rein in his own temper and hope for an opportunity to arrive soon that would allow him to convince Atemu to let him marry Yugi. And Ra knew when that day would come. Atemu's temper and mood swings were one thing; Yugi's status as a servant was yet another stumbling block in their relationship. If Atemu was unhappy with it, he could easily send Yugi out of the palace or worse yet, send him to the executioner's table. Yugi was, after all, a thief once. If he hadn't visited the prison that day, Yugi would probably already have lost a limb or two. With all that added to the fact that Yugi and the pharaoh looked startling alike, everything just seemed like a recipe for disaster.
For the umpteenth time, Seto thanked the gods that the similarities between Yugi and Atemu ended with their outward appearance. He did not think he would survive if he had to deal with another Atemu.
Cursing himself mentally, the high priest forced his mind to return to the present.
"I'm sorry, your majesty. I was just… thinking about the duties I have to perform later in the evening."
The young king peered around his room. Seeing no one around, he slumped into his seat and sighed.
"Really, there's no one around. Just call me Atemu, dear cousin. And sit down. I hate it when you're towering over me like some giant. Do you have to rub it in my face that I'm not exactly on the higher end in terms of height?" he muttered, crossing his arms in mock anger.
Seto rolled his eyes.
"I didn't even say anything. But I guess that's just your style. Nothing equals everything bad. You could probably twist everything I say and do and take it as an insult. Not to mention what I did not say or do," he uttered in response, grabbing a chair for himself. If anyone had been in the room, they would have been shocked at his insolence, but Seto knew that it was fine with the king. It was after all, first and foremost, a conversation between two cousins, rather than one between a king and his subject. Suddenly, he felt like he had been thrown back in time, back to when Atemu was just the prince and he was only a priest-in-training. Back then, life was a lot simpler, and Atemu was a lot more fun to be around. It seemed that the tempers were complimentary gifts with the crown and throne.
Atemu shrugged. "So what was on your mind? I can hardly remember a time when you lost track of our conversation."
"Nothing much. Just wondering what's up with you. You've been a pain lately," Seto pointed out rather snidely. "And don't even try to talk your way out of this. You've been a pain in the neck and you know it."
"So I have."
"It's not about the council, since they've been the ever-docile servants lately. It's not about the country either, because it's been at peace; no one's staging a revolt or anything, and the gods are pleased with our offerings so there hasn't been any floods or droughts. It can't be the concubines either, because you haven't seen them in ages. In fact, you've probably forgotten how they look like already. So what else is there?"
"…I've no idea," Atemu admitted after a moment of silence. "Seriously! It's just that… I can't help but feel restless. I think there's something calling for me, beckoning for me to go to it, but I don't know what. Maybe I should get out of the palace to take a look."
"Don't even think about it! You'd send the entire palace into an uproar!"
"Well, you'd be around to handle the situation."
"Yes, me. Your poor, overworked cousin," he sneered. "And what's there to look at outside the palace anyway? There's nothing out there but poverty and slaves."
Atemu narrowed his eyes. "What do you know? You've never been out there either."
Seto cursed mentally. Yugi had shared his stories with him, but he couldn't tell Atemu of his existence. Not yet.
"Well, it's a given. Everyone knows that," he replied in a steady voice. One thing he really liked about himself was the fact he never appeared nervous.
Atemu raised his brows.
"Really. Don't you even think of trying to leave the palace, even for a second."
"Then you'd have to deal with me being a pain in the neck more," the pharaoh countered, inwardly smirking at the sight of Seto paling slightly. It was so fun to tease his cousin. "I mean, if I can't go out and find what is bothering me, I'd continue to be temperamental. On the other hand, if you'd just handle the palace for me for one short day, I just might find the thing I'm looking for and everything would be fine again."
Seto rolled his eyes. "Nice try, but no. I'm not suicidal enough to let you out of the palace and let the council and the other priests home in on me like hawks going for their prey," he replied dryly. "Besides, I think I know what you need. You just need to get laid."
Atemu gaped at his cousin, his jaws slack and eyes wide. Did he just say what he thought he said?
"Yes, I said that. You just need to get laid."
He had no idea he had spoken aloud.
"See, you've not been with your concubines for months, and the ones still in your harem are gathering dust like dolls on the rack already. You're probably restless because you need a little downtime with someone," Seto reasoned, suddenly feeling a lot more intelligent than he had in weeks. The realization that dawned on him all of a sudden sounded so logical in his mind.
"I don't need you to tell me when I should get laid, Seto," Atemu answered indignantly. If he weren't the noble pharaoh of Kemet, he would have pouted long ago. "Besides, I'm not interested in any of my concubines. They're all so boring to be around. I mean… I can't discuss anything intelligent with them because they're apparently not equipped with a brain. Not to mention the fact that they haven't tried to do anything with me that does not consist of a bed and a bath. Just because I'm the pharaoh and a man doesn't mean that all I think about with them is sex."
The high priest crossed his arms, leaning against his seat, and gazing at his cousin through narrowed eyes. Was Atemu so oblivious to the girls' desperation?
"What they're trying to do, Atemu, is to use sex to lure you in and bind you to them, hopefully. They just want you to like them and bring them out of the hell they're living in now. I don't suppose you can understand what they're thinking of. Despite what others tell you, their status as a member of your harem isn't that glorious. Imagine what you'd feel if you were in their position. They're probably just lonely."
"Maybe, but it still doesn't change the fact that they're boring people."
"You want new ones then?"
"No… Maybe," Atemu looked away, his eyes taking on a distant glaze, "I just want someone to understand me. A friend and a lover. And this person is definitely not in the palace right now."
The cousins sighed, one worrying for his sanity and the other itching for a way to leave the palace.
Yugi tightened his grip on the wooden bucket of barley, mentally cursing its weight. When Neferet had suggested that he feed the horses that the couple of them reared as pets, he had forgotten about how heavy the feed was and had therefore asked for no help. Then again, everyone was busy with their work. He seemed to be the only one with nothing to do. Sometimes, Yugi wondered just how much power Seto had exercised over the other servants.
But it was just as well. He enjoyed spending time with the horses anyway, and they were probably hungry by now. But then again, Xanthus and Incitatus (1) had bottomless pits for stomachs and there never seemed to be a moment that they weren't hungry.
Turning around a corner that led to the stables that the other servants had built for their pet horses, he was shocked to hear an angry neigh and a stomp of hooves. He hurried over, only to see someone trying to pull Xanthus out of his stable with a crude rope. But he wasn't having much luck there, since the horse was eluding the ring of rope like a whisper of swift wind. Incitatus stomped his hooves on the wooden gate, attempting to get a bite of the would-be horse thief.
Dropping the horse feed, he shouted, "Hey, stop that! You can't take Xanthus away!"
The person guilty of the act dropped the rope in surprise and turned around. Time seemed to freeze for that one moment as the two took in the other.
Yugi nearly gasped. They looked so alike it was kind of freaky! Yet, there was a touch of subtle differences that made them easily distinguishable. The other boy's wild crown of golden bangs, raven and red locks had bolts of angry thunder running through them, allowing him to look much older and powerful than Yugi did. He also had a stronger built that was clearly apparent in his taut body, and there was no doubt muscles rippling underneath that bronze complexion. But the most obvious difference between them was the boy's stunningly fiery pools of crimson that spelt nothing but authority. Yugi was sure those eyes could draw people to him without a word much like how moths were attracted to fire. Death would be willingly accepted for a glance of those blazing orbs.
He was beautiful. Yugi could already feel a blush creeping onto his cheeks.
They would have stood there forever, just admiring the other's perfection, had Xanthus not decided to butt in. With one swift move, he lunged forward for a bite. Luckily, the man jumped away just in the nick of time to avoid the angry horse, landing rather harshly on his bottom. If horses could laugh, Xanthus and Incitatus were probably doing plenty with their incessant neighing.
Quickly, Yugi ran over, the bucket abandoned.
"Hey, are you alright?"
The other, a bit dazed, answered, "Yeah, I think. These are some temperamental horses."
"Well, anyone would be temperamental if someone was trying to kidnap them…" Yugi trailed off as-a-matter-of-factly. "Who are you anyway?"
"Me? Just someone trying to get a horse…" the other boy answered, getting up. Brushing off a few errant strands of bangs hanging in his face, he asked, "Aren't you afraid of me? I /was/ trying to steal something."
Yugi scoffed, rolling his eyes. "Trying being an operative word. You've never done this before; it's quite easy to tell you're really inexperienced, from the way you were using the rope. Add that to the fact that this is the palace and there're guards everywhere, you're probably from the palace too, since you haven't been caught yet…"
At least the other had the decency to blush.
"You're really observant, aren't you?"
"Well, when you've lived outside the palace like I have, you have to be."
Suddenly, the other's eyes lit up even more.
"You've been outside the palace before?"
"I was living on the streets until about seven months ago," Yugi answered. "Have you never been out there? Were you born in the palace?"
"Yeah, pretty much. I've been cooped up here all my life." He shrugged offhandedly, but it was easy to tell he was rather bothered by the fact.
Yugi cocked his head. This boy had most certainly never seen the world outside, if he actually wanted to leave the palace. If palace life was heaven, life outside was most definitely hell, especially for orphans. He was going to set this person straight and get that silly idea of exploring the world outside out of his head!
"What's your name? Maybe we can talk about this. I'm Yugi, by the way, a servant in the palace."
The other hesitated for a while, seemingly accessing Yugi's trustworthiness. Finally, he replied, "You can call me Yami."
(1): Xanthus and Incitatus are the names of two famous horses in history. The former is the horse of Achilles, the legendary Greek hero. The latter was made a priest and consul by the Roman Emperor Caligula about A.D. 40.