Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters presented here and am not making any profit off of this whatsoever.
Title: Flute Player
Word Count: 7,213
Rated: PG-13
Romance: Yami no Yuugi x Yuugi
Notes: This takes place some time after Battle City and before the Memory Game. Comments and criticism gratefully accepted.
Summary: Yuugi's been taking music lessons at school, and the Puzzle Spirit likes what he hears quite a bit.

The Spirit of the Millennium Puzzle usually didn't bother paying that much attention to what was going on around Yugi, as long as it didn't bring any harm to his vessel in any way. This was especially true when no duels were going on. It wasn't that he didn't like this modern world. He did, quite a bit. It fascinated him in ways that he couldn't begin to describe, and he was grateful he was able to share Yugi's understanding of this world.

It was just that school was boring to him. History made him want to laugh, mathematics were a complete blur to him (and to Yugi, truth to be told), and most of the other subjects just didn't hold any real interest for him. Except for one. There was one hour of time where he was as alert as he could be.

This was when Yugi took his music class. He hadn't always paid attention to this one, but ever since Battle City, he had grown more and more interested. Learning he had been a Pharaoh in his forgotten past hadn't exactly brought up memories, but more like feelings, faint hints of things he couldn't explain, occasional flashes of preferences and things of that nature. He knew he loved the feeling of freshly cleaned linen, the sight of a pure blue sky, and the sound of a flute being played.

And by some great chance or coincidence, that was exactly what Yugi played. He wasn't as skilled as the memories that liked to tease and dance through the Spirit's mind on occasion were, but there was an extra quality to Yugi's playing that couldn't be defined as skill.

The more he thought about it, however, the more he began to wonder if it was really Yugi's skill that was the issue. Perhaps it wasn't what Yugi was doing, but what he himself was hearing that was different.

It was hard to say, without any more memory than he had. He wanted to go to the Museum and see what could be learned from the stone tablet there, but all the events of Battle City had drained everyone's energy. Yugi's mother and grandfather had insisted that he get some rest for a few weeks before doing anything else, and the Spirit had to agree. He hated to interrupt Yugi's normal life, and the idea of a little down time wasn't so bad. His memories had waited three thousand years for him to recover them. Another few weeks wouldn't be that much of a difficult thing.

Whatever it was they were playing now, he didn't recognize it. A quick peek into Yugi's side of their mind didn't much enlighten him. He knew that the music was beautiful, but that was all he really cared about. The name of the song meant very little. He closed his eyes, listening as Yugi played on and on, pausing only when the teacher told him to for some reason.

Why couldn't this kind of bliss go on forever? Why did it have to be interrupted nearly every time? The Spirit ground mental teeth as yet another motion from the teacher halted what Yugi was doing. He mentally replayed what he could, trying to recapture the beauty of it.

That was the problem with music, though. It couldn't just be replayed the same way over and over. That was also one of the beauties of music. It always changed and grew, becoming something different and greater every time. He knew that they had ways of recording things in this day and age, but Yugi's music was just too special to him for the Spirit to want everyone to have access to it. If he were selfish, then for this, he would be selfish and not care. He shared so much else with the world, saving it, couldn't he have just one thing to himself?

He fidgeted a little more, staring around at the confusing confines of his soul room. It hadn't gotten any less complex since the last time he'd looked. Perhaps if he could solve his past and find the things he wanted, needed to know, this room could be a little more hospitable, to himself and to Yugi. It had felt so right those times that Yugi had been in here. Just being near him felt right. They were supposed to be virtually one, and not being with him was a pain that ripped into him.

Maybe he could ask Yugi to visit in here soon and have him play there. The memory might be stronger if the music were played for him instead of him just eavesdropping on it. He knew Yugi wouldn't mind him listening in. He'd probably want to spend more time with him, really. The boy could be so lonely, even now when he had so many friends and so much acclaim. Only when they were joined, or in the same soul room, were either of them fully at peace.

He leaned against the nearest wall, eyes closed and fully entranced within the music he could hear ever so faintly. Yugi was like that music. So near, yet so far, so completely within his grasp, and yet as far away as the farthest star. And so utterly, utterly beautiful.

You're being vain. He reminded himself as he had a thousand times since he and Yugi had become more aware of each other. Ever since then, feelings he had never once dreamed possible began to stir every time he brushed by that warm, bubbling, happy mind. It was the height of vanity to think of Yugi as being as beautiful as he was, since they shared looks. It was impossible to even think that such a thing could be possible.

Besides, as much as he cared for Yugi, not only was he a spirit, but Yugi had some kind of feelings for Anzu. He wasn't certain himself what they were, but he had felt them. Friendship was only one of them. The younger boy admired her admittedly beautiful body, and her sharp mind and intense personality made for a combination that virtually anyone would be attracted to, if they didn't have someone else in their hearts.

The day he and Anzu had spent together came to mind, and he smiled a little. She had been such a help that day. She worried about him, he knew it. He couldn't read her mind, nor would he if he'd had that ability, but he knew it anyway. It was made evident in every look she gave either of them, and in a hundred other ways. He'd never be able to repay her, or any of them, for all the support they'd given since the day Yugi had completed the puzzle. Or before that, in Anzu and Grandpa Mutou's case.

He refused to let himself wallow in misery, not when Yugi's flute music was still playing. There would be time enough to angst later, when Yugi was in his physical education class and Karita was yelling at them all again. Maybe that teacher really had been better off as Villager D. Maybe. And the more he thought about it, the more he knew he would've done much as the Dark Spirit of the Ring had if Karita had ever demanded that Yugi's hair be cut. Indeed, he might well have done much worse than simply seal his soul into a figurine.

No, he wasn't supposed to do that kind of thing anymore. Not since he and Yugi had become aware of each other, and he had realized how hurt his partner had been by some of what he'd done. Yugi understood it all, there was no way he couldn't, but that didn't mean he didn't feel a little sorry for some of them. He even made regular visits to the hospital to see Imori. And when he'd seen Ushio help out on a volunteer basis at that same hospital, both Yugi and the Spirit felt a lot better about things.

The music stopped again, and the Spirit sighed. There was something 'final' about it this time, and that usually meant class was over for the day. Which further meant there wouldn't be any more flute music until that evening, when Yugi was practicing. He'd never emerged in his spiritual form then, as much as he'd wanted to since he'd begun to seriously listen to his partner's playing.

Why didn't he tell Yugi how much he liked to hear it? Yugi would almost certainly play for him then, as much as he wanted. Whenever he wanted. Yugi would do just about anything if he thought it would make him happy, and he knew he was the same way. The answer was simple: he didn't want Yugi to know. Not yet, any way. The future, with all of it's wonder and potential, lay ahead of them, but there was also the fact he knew he couldn't be with Yugi forever. Even as much as they both wanted it to be, it wouldn't be. It couldn't be. He couldn't tell Yugi how he felt and then go on to whatever would happen and leave him alone. It would be better if Yugi never knew.

There were still two more classes to go until lunch. Yugi occasionally played then, especially if it were warm enough for them to eat outside, as it had been for the last few days. The extra musical time was not only good for Yugi's playing, but for the Spirit's hearing. It was also a good time for dueling, and that was something that would never fail to catch his interest. No one really wanted to play Yugi anymore, since the story of his wins at Duelist Kingdom and Battle City had spread far and wide throughout Domino High. But some of their other friends were always fair game to the local duelists.

The Spirit made himself as comfortable as he could, thinking over the music and wondering if he could somehow subtly encourage Yugi to play some more, when they were in private. To play for him, not just to rehearse the things he had to in order for his classes. That would be beautiful music indeed. To hear something played from Yugi's heart, not a sheet of paper in front of him. It would be a treasure that no thief could steal and no one could buy from him, no matter how wealthy. The idea of having something the Dark Spirit of the Ring or Kaiba Seto never could, even if they knew it existed or wanted it if they did, was rather appealing.

He thought about spending the time until lunch exploring his inner maze again, and decided against it. He could remember most of these doors and what was behind them were merely more traps and problems. It seemed as if Yugi only could open the door that had led to some of his deeper memories. Since the first time Yugi had been here, that door hadn't even appeared again, as far as he knew. Did it want Yugi to come back before it showed up again? It was impossible to tell, but might be worth investigating, once the time was right.

The music kept on playing over and over in his mind as he bided his time until lunch. He wasn't really certain most of the time if it were his memory replaying this, or Yugi thinking about his class. Even for him, it could be hard to tell sometimes.

A shiver of joy came from Yugi's side of things, and the Spirit smiled. It had to be lunchtime now. He moved his awareness a little closer to the surface, and was rewarded by the sight of their usual group gathered under a tree, going through their lunch boxes. Yugi usually made his own, but once in a while, the Spirit had taken temporary control and made a surprise for his partner. Learning how to cook was a new experience he'd not expected to find himself enjoying, but once he had...it was a little difficult to keep him out of the kitchen. Could taking care of oneself really be that fulfilling? It couldn't be. Otherwise, why would people of rank such as himself have others do it for them?

Today was one of the days Yugi was going to have something that he'd made. The Spirit watched with a touch of pleasure as his young partner squealed with joy at the sight of what lay within the box. A flick of his eyes across the group revealed their own amusement with Yugi's reaction.

"Didn't you know what you put in your own lunch box, Yugi?" Anzu asked, a hint of curiosity in her blue eyes. "It shouldn't be that much of a surprise, should it?"

The Spirit could feel the faintest touch of heat, and realized Yugi was blushing. He wished he dared appear outside in his transparent form, just to see that lovely sight for himself. He could if he wanted to, but this was Yugi's time with his other friends, and he didn't want the other to be distracted by his presence. That seemed to happen almost too easily. He didn't want to give in to hope that it could mean what he wanted it to mean, though. Not when fantasies were so much more pleasant right now.

"I didn't, not really. My other self makes my lunch for me sometimes." The blush was getting stronger. A lot stronger. He was going to have to make more lunches for Yugi if he got this kind of reaction. He just felt so happy, even while he was turning as red as the proverbial tomato.

"I didn't know he knew how to cook!" Jonouchi looked surprised just at the thought. "Geez, what can't the other you do?"

Remember who I am, the Spirit thought with a mental taste of tartness. He did his best to keep that from Yugi, though by the comforting wave of emotion he felt only moments later, he didn't think he was all that successful. There was no verbal response though, and for that he was grateful.

A faint stirring of something from across the group brought his attention just a little more to the surface, and he found himself gazing into the dark brown eyes of Bakura. Shortly after Battle City was over with, he and Yugi had found that the Millennium Ring wasn't where they'd left it. There was only one place that it would go, they both knew. Bakura hadn't said anything to either of them about it, but there also had been no trouble from the Dark Spirit in all the weeks since then.

He's probably just biding his time. The other Spirit could be patient when it suited his purposes. The Spirit of the Puzzle knew better than to quite underestimate him. He still had no idea of what choice he would've made in their duel on Kaiba's blimp, if the Dark Spirit hadn't taken it out of his hands entirely. No, I do know. Yugi would've made the decision.

Not that he would've questioned it. He would've lost the duel, to save Bakura's life. What effect that could've had on everything else that had happened afterwards, he had no idea, but it was what would've happened.

"Hey, Jonouchi!" The voice was slightly familiar, as was the slightly arrogant stance the person was speaking had. The Spirit thought for a moment, then smirked. This was going to be interesting.

The blond looked up as his name was called, and rolled his eyes once he saw who it was. "What do you want, Shimizu?"

Shimizu Shinju stalked a little closer, arrogance oozing off of every pore she possessed. "You know what I want, Jonouchi." They all did. She'd been trying to beat him in a duel for almost four months. Every time she tried, he beat her. Usually quite soundly.

"All right, if you insist. I don't have my Duel Disk, though." Jonouchi reached into his pocket for his deck. "So we'll have to do this the regular way."

Shimizu just shrugged, folding herself down not too far from him and pulling out her own deck. "That's fine with me. I don't need all that fancy stuff to beat you."

"Are you sure?" Honda grinned teasingly over at the two of them. "You haven't had any luck beating him without it, you know."

The dark-haired girl glared fiercely over at him, blue eyes sparking with anger. "You stay out of this. You don't even duel!"

"What's that got to do with anything?" Yugi asked quietly, and the Spirit sent along his silent support. "Dueling's not the only thing in the world, you know."

Shimizu sniffed, shooting a disdainful look at the smaller boy. "You're the World Champion, Mutou. Of course you can afford to think something like that. But some of the rest of us can't."

The disrespect being shown to his partner made the Spirit want to leap forward and take charge, preferably doing something to teach this little brat a lesson. He kept his temper, though. She didn't know what she was talking about, and if all their other duels were any indication, Jonouchi would teach her quite the lesson in manners in a very short period of time.

Indeed, just as he'd thought, within a good twenty minutes, Shimizu's life points were down to zero, and Jonouchi was putting his cards away, a faintly smug look hovering about his lips. Shimizu stared down at where they'd been playing, total disbelief in her eyes.

"You didn't do that." She stared up at him, then back down again. "You didn't."

"He did." Bakura's soft voice spoke up, and his lips had a faintly amused twist to them. "You really should be used to it by now."

Shimizu glared over at him, then snatched her cards up. "We'll do this again, Jonouchi."

"Yeah. Tomorrow, just like always." The luck duelist leaned back against the tree he'd been comfortably ensconced against before Shimizu had interrupted and grinned. After Battle City, her challenges to him had switched from every week or two to every single day, and so far, Jonouchi's record of wins hadn't changed. The Puzzle-Spirit had the idea that he was only playing to help her more than anything else, and to refine his own skills.

Trills of laughter broke out all around once Shimizu was out of earshot, since they all knew that Jonouchi was right. It was just that laughing in the girl's face would've probably resulted in her sticking around, and there was something they all wanted to talk about now that they had some time.

"When are you going to the museum, Yugi?" Bakura asked quietly, one hand drifting slightly to his shirt where the Ring had to be hiding. "I was thinking I'd come along, if you don't mind."

Yugi tilted his head slightly. What do you think? He directed the question to the presence inside of him. We might need the Ring there to wake up your memories.

You're quite right. The Spirit nodded mentally, pulling himself a bit closer to the front. And all of our friends should be there as well.

"I haven't decided yet, but you're welcome to come along. All of you are." Yugi shot a brilliant smile all around the group before he reached to put his lunch box down. The flute case was right beside it, and seeing that gave the Spirit an idea.

Yugi, I believe that was Jonouchi's fourteenth win against Shimizu, was it not? He received an affirmative feeling. Perhaps a little victory music is in order? It was a bit of a clumsy question, but since he had never asked for something like this before, it could be overlooked. He hoped. Just a little tune, something to cheer everyone up before going back to class. One thing he had observed was that no one enjoyed having to go back inside after three-quarters of an hour in such beautiful weather.

Startlement flowed over to him briefly, then a kind of a sense of wonder. You want to hear me play? Yugi didn't really wait for an answer, which was just as well. The Spirit didn't think he could give him one. If he'd had blood, all of it would've been rushing to his cheeks in a blush fit to rival any of Yugi's. He told himself over and over again that he wasn't just the King of Games, he was the Pharaoh and Pharaohs quite simply did not blush.

"The other me just reminded me that you've won fourteen times against Shimizu, Jonouchi." Yugi pulled his case into his lap as he spoke. "He suggested I play something for you to celebrate. You don't mind, do you?"

Jonouchi blinked, then grinned happily at his smaller friend. "Of course not! Go right ahead!"

Everyone moved in just a little more, waiting. The Spirit closed eyes that didn't really exist, and listened carefully as Yugi got ready, putting his flute together with intense care. The smaller boy lifted it to his lips, and began to play.

There could never be words fit to describe Yugi's playing, at least not in the ears of the Spirit. Some deep part of him said that he had heard better, but as he couldn't remember where or when, it didn't matter. All that mattered was what he was hearing now. Without someone guiding him to play the same notes over and over, Yugi was playing something that rang directly from his heart and soul.

Very few people actually practiced their music lessons during lunch, so there was little surprise when several others simply stopped and stared at Yugi as he played. The Spirit noticed them only vaguely, and couldn't help a hint of smugness in his mind. They were hearing this because of his desires, because of what he had asked Yugi to do. And they would only hear it if he wanted them to again. Which he probably wouldn't. This really was something that should only belong to someone who could really appreciate it. Someone like him.

Yugi hadn't noticed anyone noticing what he was doing, though. He was all caught up in the music. The Spirit could feel where his partner's attention was, and that was yet another feeling he enjoyed. This was something that gave Yugi only pleasure that no one could try to beat him at. Could it be even better than winning at Duel Monsters?

Probably not. But it came close.

A sharp bell ringing cut through the air, and Yugi's music broke off suddenly as he looked around, broken from the spell of playing.

"Great," Anzu grumbled as she started to struggle to her feet. "Back to class. That was really awesome, though, Yugi."

"Yeah, going to give up dueling and be a musician?" Jonouchi teased his shorter friend. Yugi looked almost as if he'd been personally offended, or would have if his eyes hadn't been sparkling with a teasing gleam.

"No, I'm not! And if you ask me that again, I might not play a victory tune on your twenty-first win next week!" Yugi quickly broke the flute down and put it back into the container after cleaning it carefully and quickly.

The Spirit let himself fade back more intently into his soul room as the teens headed back inside, bantering cheerfully among themselves. He wanted to relive that music again, right up until that last moment when everything had stopped. It had been so perfect, so much more than the trite old tunes Yugi played to practice with. He really had to get Yugi to do that for him more often.

But how? This was the first time Yugi had ever really played just to be playing. Maybe he didn't like to play that much and was just doing it because of his school obligations? He couldn't ask Yugi to do it again if that were the case! The mere thought of wanting him to do something he disliked was repulsive.

At least he hadn't turned down the suggestion when he'd made it. Yugi had even sounded as if he liked the idea of him wanting to hear him play. That did bode well for the future. Maybe Yugi would want to discuss this once they got home, after they'd helped his grandfather in the shop for a while. They usually talked then after all, though every conversation until now had been about Duel Monsters or when they thought they'd be rested enough to deal with the next phase of things.

Perhaps today could be different. The Spirit didn't really like change all that much, unless it was the monsters, spells, and traps in his deck, but this once it might not hurt that much. He'd have to find out.

Unfortunately, there were still some three or so hours left before they were in the shop and could actually have a little quiet time with each other. And even that wasn't promised, since sometimes people actually did come in to buy cards or look at things. Grandpa had even been considering putting in some role playing game things, since those were beginning to be popular. Perhaps Bakura could give them some advice on that.

The Spirit shook himself mentally. That wasn't what he had to deal with, as much as he wished he could have a normal life that dealt with such things. He had to find his past and learn who he had been, and who he was. But I still want to talk to Yugi about his playing. There was no rule that said he couldn't take time out of his schedule to enjoy himself, after all.

Trying to keep himself occupied until they were at the shop, the Spirit pulled his deck from a pocket and started to go through it. He wanted to think some more about Yugi's music, but he had a feeling if he kept that up today, his partner could find out a bit more than he wanted to a little too soon. All things in moderation. Someone wise was supposed to have said that. The Spirit wasn't sure if it were true, but this time, it would have to be.

He paused briefly at the Black Magician card, eying it. There had always been something special about this one monster, and he wished he knew what it was. In the vague images and dreams that filled his mind when he and Yugi were both asleep, he wanted to believe he had seen that face. Perhaps he had, guarding over him as the monster had in so many duels.

And in part of my mind as well. Yugi had told him about what had happened with Shadi and he wasn't surprised that his favorite monster protected his innermost secrets.

Yugi had come to mean so much to him in such a short time. Really, they hadn't even known each other for that long, especially not in his frame of reference. It was amazing how strongly he was coming to feel for the boy.

No, not coming to feel. Had come to feel. The thought of leaving Yugi, no matter how necessary that leaving might be, caused something deep within him to ache. How could anyone ever suggest that he be separated from his partner?

You did it to the tomb robber and his partner. Something seemed to speak in the depths of his mind, and he shook his head quickly. That wasn't the same thing at all. For one thing, Bakura and the Spirit of the Ring weren't partners the way he and Yugi were. The dark spirit only used the cheerful white-haired boy as a host, a vessel, something to contain him while he wreaked damage on the world. He loved Yugi.

Not to mention, these were two entirely different situations. Bakura hadn't protested the banishment of the dark spirit. Of course he hadn't protested said spirit's return either, though there were multiple reasons on why that might be. None of them applied in this situation, though. Not to his situation.

He loved Yugi. He turned that thought over in his mind several times, looking at it from every angle he could imagine and then some. He couldn't remember if he'd ever loved anyone else before, and it was a little disconcerting to have discovered the emotion now. I'm three thousand years older than he is. That brought 'robbing the cradle' up to a whole new level of meaning.

Then again, they weren't that far apart in age, really. Yes, he had been born three thousand or so years earlier, but he knew he hadn't been much older than Yugi was now when he had died. Like so much else, he wasn't sure how he knew. He just knew that he did. Or had. Had been. Whatever. Yugi was sixteen now, and he hadn't quite yet been eighteen himself when he had died.

The Spirit stretched his mind back, trying to remember anything that came from back then. Only the usual flashes came, scents, feelings, a brief noise or two. Once again flute music, fair beyond words, floated through his mind, and this time it wasn't played by Yugi. A pair of eyes appeared to his memory, but were gone so swiftly he couldn't even say if they'd been there in reality, or if he'd just made them up.

One thing he was quite certain of was this: the time between when he had died, or been trapped in the Puzzle, whichever it had been, and when Yugi had put it together and released him had not only spanned loosely three thousand years, but it hadn't affected him at all. He could remember none of it, and had only known it was that long by the strange sense of knowing that came on him when it came to things like Duel Monsters, or some of the images that gazing on the tablets Isis had shown him, or the images of Malik's back.

Three thousand years had passed in the blinking of an eye to him. It had been much as if he'd simply slept through it all.

Perhaps that was one of the reasons the tomb robber hated him so much and wanted to take what was his. From some of the things that Bakura had let drop in conversation the last few weeks, he hadn't been the only host that his dark other had used over the centuries. Having to experience that sort of loss over and over could very well have driven the other spirit insane.

That in no way meant he was going to let his guard down around him, though. Indeed, he would have to keep more of a watch. There was just no way someone like that could be trusted, especially not around his Yugi.

His Yugi. That had an incredibly sweet ring to it. Would Yugi like being his? How could you just ask someone that? He knew there were modern holidays that were all about the expressing of love, but that just seemed so common. Couldn't he do something better for the one he loved?

Wait, shouldn't he find out how Yugi felt about him? He knew that his partner had had a severe crush on Anzu not all that long ago, and he had no idea if that had changed. He'd just been thinking about that before Yugi's impromptu concert, after all. It had to be dealt with, didn't it? What if Yugi did really like her, or if he didn't, what if he didn't know that he didn't like her and still thought he did, and turned him down because of it?

Love was beginning to sound far more complicated than he'd ever thought it was. Why couldn't it all be moonlight, roses, and the sound of a flute spiraling up forever? It would make things so much easier on him.

He didn't suppose he'd ever gotten anything done by just sitting around and admiring himself, though. He won at Duel Monsters by finding his opponent's weak points and using those to bring defeat upon them. Would the same strategy work now? He tapped insubstantial fingers, which nonetheless made a soft noise, on the brickwork beneath him. If he were to be honest with himself, it more than likely wouldn't. Love wasn't a duel, even if it was between two people.

The simplest method might work, after all. He could just ask Yugi what he felt about him, and tell him how he felt. Whatever happened from then on would be what happened. He knew that no matter what Yugi would still be his friend, and he would be Yugi's. Perhaps if things fell out the wrong way, he wouldn't feel quite so bad about going on to whatever happened after they restored his memories. It would probably be preferable to remaining here, desperately in love with someone who did not love him back.

The Spirit quietly sighed. It wasn't the best plan that had ever been, but it would have to do. As soon as the right moment presented itself, he would go through with it. Now all that remained was finding the right moment.

He kept himself occupied with various thoughts of what Yugi might have to say once he'd made his confession. There were really only three things that he could say, that he cared for the Spirit just as much, in the same way, or that he just thought of him as a friend and brother, or, last of all, that he just didn't know how he felt.

Other me? Yugi's voice penetrated to his mind and he jumped slightly. He normally didn't drift off quite like that.

Yes, partner? Could school be over with already? He hadn't thought it would be so soon.

We're at the shop. Everyone else had things they had to do this afternoon, so it's just the two of us. Did you want to talk to me about something? The soft, amused voice of his partner almost seemed to caress his mind. This was really not his best day. He just kept drifting off. And he was about to do it again.

Yes, there is. The Spirit decided it was time to get this done with, and formed his usual transparent body outside of the Puzzle. "How was your day?"

"Just like every other day," Yugi shrugged, settling behind the counter. The Spirit looked around, not seeing his partner's grandfather anywhere. "Grandpa's over in the kitchen, making a snack for me." He grinned a little just at the thought. Mutou Sugoroku tended to do something like that every time his grandson came home. He never could quite get the timing right to have it ready when he arrived.

The Spirit wandered around a little, letting his thoughts settle and relax some. There was no way that he really wanted to jump into this. He could feel Yugi's eyes on him, but the younger boy wasn't going to press him. That was obvious.

"I really enjoyed your playing today, Yugi," the Spirit finally began, coming at things from an angle. It was what he'd had on his mind most of today, after all. "I enjoy it every day, actually."

Yugi nodded, looking at the flute case he'd set on the counter in front of him. The Spirit smiled faintly; he'd never done that before. Maybe some of what he'd been thinking had slipped over to Yugi's side of things after all. "I kind of figured that out when you asked me to play for Jonouchi." He grinned some, violet eyes dancing. He was a true jewel, a treasure of gold, onyx, and ruby, with twin amethyst insets. "I guess I shouldn't call it that, though. You wanted me to play for you, didn't you?"

There was no getting anything past Yugi.

"Yes, I did. There's very little I remember, but that is something I do know. I love the sound of flute music, and I love the sound of your music more than anything." He came back over to where Yugi was, and looked at him. If anyone else had looked into the shop just then, they might've seen the young boy staring into utter nothingness with a rapt expression.

"I've been hoping you liked it," Yugi smiled, tracing a random design on the countertop. "I've been trying to play for you when I can. I just didn't know how to do it without making it obvious."

That really wasn't what he'd been expecting to hear. Hoping, yes, but not expecting. "You've been playing for me?" He didn't sound quite as intelligent as he wanted to at the moment. "All along?"

"For a while now. Even before Battle City." Yugi blushed lightly, becoming more and more fascinated in the design he was drawing. "I read some books about Egypt, and some of them mentioned that flute music was very prized there. Some priests and priestesses even would play for their gods and goddesses as offerings."

The Spirit closed his eyes, thinking back as hard as he could. It sounded right, if nothing else. Yugi kept on talking, though. "And since Pharaoh was king and god, I thought it would be a good idea if I kind of offered something to you." Chalk up another one to something he hadn't ever thought to hear. "So...I guess you accepted it?"

"Yes." The ancient phantom touched Yugi's hand briefly, the contact making the younger boy shiver. "I've accepted it without even knowing you were offering it, and now that I do know, I hope you keep on." His eyes warmed as he leaned even more closely. "It's the most beautiful sound I've ever heard."

Yugi smiled lightly at him, then leaned forward slightly himself. "So, are there any requests that you have, other me? I can't promise everything, but I can try my best."

"Maybe you could just play like you did at lunch? From inside yourself? From your heart?"

The young boy nodded, unfastening his flute case and starting to put it together. The Spirit watched from the most comfortable place he could find, leaning against some of the displays. That was one advantage of not being substantial. He could lean anywhere he wanted and not have to worry about knocking anything over. The only things he could really touch were Yugi and their cards, unless he was merged with Yugi's body, of course. He didn't seem to fall through things, which was quite a relief. The last thing he wanted was to be acting like some kind of ghost such as he'd seen on television.

Once the flute was together, Yugi started to play. The Spirit sighed softly in pleasure, his soul filling up with that lovely sound. It was everything he'd ever wanted and then some. This time, he knew that Yugi was playing just for him and no other, no matter what. Only someone like him, a king, a god, the master of what he surveyed, could or should hear something like this. He couldn't help the possessive, partly smug look that spread across his face at the thought. All of this, all for him...forever.

You're enjoying this. Yugi's mind-touch was soft and light as he kept on playing. What's on your mind?

"I'm glad that no one else is here to hear this. This is mine, Yugi," the Spirit murmured, leaning closer to him once again. "I wish no one else could hear this but me. I know it's selfish, but I want it all to myself, forever. I want you all to myself forever."

Yugi chuckled mentally, his fingers moving over the flute skillfully. I wouldn't mind. If we can't help your memories at the museum, then I'll do just what I said I would. I'll share my memories with you, forever. His eyes gleamed with amusement as he played onward. But you're not the only one hearing this, you know. Grandpa can from the kitchen.

"But you're not playing it for him, Yugi. You're playing it for me. That's all I need." The Spirit let out something that might've been a breath if he'd had working lungs. "I don't know what's more beautiful. The music or who's playing it."

The whisper of melody seemed to stumble for a moment or two, then Yugi looked at him. Did you say what I think you said? Did you mean...

"Yes, Yugi." Now was the time. Now or never. "I think you're beautiful. I can't imagine anyone being more fantastic than you are. If it weren't for this destiny, for the things that I must do, I could stay happily with you forever."

So could I. Yugi smiled, the song picking up again from where he'd almost faltered. I can't think of anything else I'd rather do than be with you, forever.

The Spirit wanted to ask about Anzu, about the rest of his friends and family, but all of that ceased to matter at the moment. What mattered more than anything was the two of them being together, no matter what. Neither of them really noticed when Grandpa came in, setting a plate of brownies on the counter and smiling at his grandson. The Spirit had no idea if the old man knew about him or not, but sometimes it did seem as if he did. Grandpa said nothing to Yugi, only headed away to the main part of the house, letting his grandchild be alone with the music and the unseen Spirit of the Puzzle.

When Yugi finally stopped playing, both of them sighed deeply. "Thank you, partner. Whenever you want to play again, be certain that I will be listening."

"If you ever want me to play, all you have to do is ask." Yugi smiled as he put the flute away carefully, then looked towards the door, hearing the clang of the bell as someone came in. "Welcome to the Kame Game Shop, how can I help you?"

The Spirit faded away into Yugi's mind, returning to his soul room. His partner could handle something like this without him. He couldn't wipe the contented smile from his face as he relaxed in a bed he'd conjured up from a simple thought. Yugi loves me. Those words hadn't been said, but he knew that they weren't necessary. Yugi had said it with his music, with his smile, with his undying and unswerving commitment to him.

He had no idea what time it was outside when he felt as if someone were looking at him. He looked up to see Yugi looking back at him, dressed in his nightclothes. "Partner, what are you doing in here?" His soft tone conveyed his curiosity as Yugi stepped over to him. "Was there something?"

"I was wondering if you'd mind if I stayed in here with you tonight. I know I never have before, but I just...wanted to." Yugi smiled just a little sheepishly, and the Spirit couldn't help but return the expression. Yugi had the market cornered when it came to being cute.

"Of course you can. All you ever have to do is ask." He opened his arms a little, and Yugi swarmed up into them, snuggling quickly and closely. The Spirit shivered a little, and Yugi looked up at him, eyes tinged with concern.

"Are you all right? You're not cold, are you?" He started to squirm around a little, looking for anything like a blanket to pull over both of them. The Spirit laughed a little and shook his head, wrapping his arms more fully around Yugi.

"No, I'm not cold, partner." He smiled, leaning in closer so he could catch the faint scent of Yugi's shampoo. The boy smelled so clean, so perfect, and felt so completely right in his arms. This was what should always be. "In fact, I'm very certain that I've never been quite this warm in three thousand years."

The End