Téa went completely still. "Yugi, what are you saying?"
He could feel his heart pounding a little too hard in his chest, but kept his eyes locked on hers and his voice steady. "You said you came too close to losing me, but I came really close to losing you, too. Only, it wasn't to some villain du jour or even to the Shadow Realm. It was because of my own stupidity. I couldn't figure out who I was and how the other me fit into everything, and instead of working it through with you, I shut you out. Worse than that, I pushed you away. Well, no more. I'm done shutting you out. Whatever lies ahead, we face it together." He held up the necklace. "This is my promise to you, that I am completely with you now. All of me. Forever."
She slowly shook her head, looking a little dazed. "We've only been together seven months. Don't you think we need a little more time—"
A blush crept into his cheeks. "I'm not proposing, not exactly." He lowered his eyes, looking down at his lap, feeling sheepish. "I… I know we're still kinda young, and there's so much going on with me working on my master's and you going back to school again. And I really wanna look into what it would take to open a game shop with Joey, too. There are a whole bunch of things we should do first before we take that kind of step, I know that." He looked up again, meeting her gaze once more, his nervousness giving way to a quiet resolve. "I am going to propose to you some day. I'll give you a real ring, and we'll have a yui-no ceremony and everything. But not today. This…" He indicated the necklace again. "This is to connect him to both of us, to let you know that I'm not divided against myself anymore. I want you to take it with no strings attached. You don't have to promise me anything or even know what you want for the future. I just… I need you to know that for me, I can't imagine any future that doesn't include you."
She stared at him, tears forming in her eyes, and her mouth moved as if it wanted to say something, but her brain hadn't quite caught up yet. At last, words came. "Yugi, I could never accept such a gift unless I could make the same promise in return. It… it wouldn't be right."
He blinked. "Oh." Swallowing over the lump that formed in his throat, he folded his hand over the necklace. "Yeah, okay. I understand."
He started to put it back in his pocket, but she put her hand on his arm, stopping him. "Hey, where're you going with that? I didn't say I wouldn't accept it."
He frowned, confused for a moment. "But you just said—" And then, his eyes widened as he understood.
Reaching out, she touched his face, her thumb brushing lightly on his cheek. "Don't you know that I can't imagine any future that doesn't include you, either?"
The words were barely out of her mouth before he was kissing her, the necklace dropping to his lap and then sliding onto the floor, forgotten, as he took her face in his hands to pull her closer. She wrapped her arms around his neck, her fingers curling into his hair, and he felt the blanket-like weight on his shoulders settle around them both, binding them together with its reassuring presence.
"Yo, Yuge, you—oops, sorry. Didn't mean to interrupt."
Yugi and Téa broke off the kiss and looked up to where Joey was backing out of the doorway. Yugi blushed. "No, it's fine. Did you need something?"
"We're thinking about heading back to the hotel. You guys about ready?"
Yugi looked at Téa, who nodded, then gave him a sly grin. "We can pick up where we left off back at the hotel."
Yugi's eyes widened and his cheeks got even warmer. "O-okay. But there's something I need to do first. I just need a couple of minutes." He got up off the floor, then held a hand out to Téa to help her up as well.
"Works for me," Joey said. "Everyone's still kinda hanging out, so it'll be a while before we actually take off." He stepped into the study. "I do need to get all the coats, though. Mai sent me for them to 'keep me out of trouble.'" He made air quotes with his fingers, rolling his eyes in mild annoyance. "Ishizu said they were in here?"
"Yeah, on that chair." Yugi cocked his head in the direction of a chair near the door. It was piled high with a number of long overcoats. Joey nodded, then stepped over to the chair and started throwing coats over his arm.
Yugi started to head that way to help, but Téa coughed. "Aren't you forgetting something?" Her hands were on her hips and her eyebrow was arched in a somewhat reproving glare. He gave her a blank look and half a shrug in return, causing her to let out a tsk of exasperation. "My necklace?"
"Oh! Right!" Yugi bent down and retrieved the fallen necklace from the floor. He went to hand it to her, but she turned her back to him, indicating with a tap to her neck that she wanted him to do the honors. As he fumbled with the ancient fastening, he saw another chain around her neck. "Hm. I forgot about the Dark Magician Girl pendant. Will it be in the way?"
"Oh, yeah, that. Hold on, it's tucked under my dress for the funeral." She pulled it out and looked down. "I think it's fine. It's got a pretty long chain. The Egyptian one is much shorter. You almost done?"
"The clasp is tricky. Maybe we can take it to a jeweler and have a modern clasp put on. Okay, almost… got it."
She turned around to face him. "Well, how does it look?"
"Perfect," he said, not thinking about the necklace at all.
"I need a mirror… ooh, there's one!" Pulling Yugi by the arm, she dragged him over to a decorative mirror that was hanging on the wall so she could admire the necklace. She gasped when she saw her reflection, and fingered the gold, blue, and red beads at her throat. "Oh, it's gorgeous! Yugi, thank you!" She reached over and pulled him into another kiss.
"Uh… a little help here?" They broke off again at Joey's second interruption. He was standing by the chair, his face hidden behind a pile of about a dozen overcoats.
"Oh, honestly, Joey! You can't carry all those yourself!" Téa shook her head like a mother who'd lost her patience with a careless child.
"That would be why I asked for help!"
Yugi and Téa went over to him and pulled off a few of the coats, which Téa slung over her own shoulder. "I can take some of these."
"Can you get the purses, too? They don't go with my outfit."
"Just go!" Téa spun him around and pushed him out the door, then scooped up five purses.
"Wait, Téa." Yugi took a step between her in the door. "Before you go, I was wondering if I could have your maker."
"Your marker." He pointed at the purse he recognized as hers. "I know you always carry a black marker in your purse. You know, just in case there's a dire smiley-face-across-the-backs-of-our-hands emergency."
She made a face at him, but put down the extra purses so she could open hers. She fished around for a moment, then produced the marker. "What do you need it for?"
"I need to leave someone a message." At her questioning look, he elaborated. "I'd like to leave it with the Puzzle box. Another memento for the other me."
Her eyebrows went up, and then she smiled, nodding. "I'd like that, Yugi. I think he will, too. Tell him for me—" She stopped, shaking her head slightly. "No. I think we're good. Whatever message you leave, it's enough." She handed him the marker, gave him a quick kiss on the side of his mouth, then gathered up the purses once more and left the room.
Yugi touched the spot on his mouth where she'd kissed him, a small smile playing on his lips as he went back to the couch. He bent down to pick up his Puzzle box off the floor, then brought it along with Téa's marker over to Ishizu's desk in the corner of the study. Looking around, he found a stack of blank paper next to her computer printer. He took a sheet and set it down on the desk next to the Puzzle box, then uncapped Téa's marker and began drawing on his left hand. Not the back of it, like Téa had twice done across his other hand to mark the bond between them all, but rather on his palm. He could almost feel his other self's hand, in Sahu form, pressing against his own, fingers interlocking. Holding onto that memory, he let it fill every part of him with a deep and almost breathtaking warmth as he outlined a sort of bent teardrop shape on his palm, with the thin part of the drop curled on itself in a semicircle like a tail. He finished off the design with a black dot inside the thick part of the teardrop. The yang, or light half of a yin-yang symbol.
He traced over the image several times, making the lines as thick and dark as he could until the ink felt wet on his hand and the alcoholic fumes from the marker started burning his nose. When he finished, he took only a few seconds to inspect his work then, before the ink could dry, pressed his hand down onto the blank piece of paper. He left it there a moment, leaning on it with all his weight. When he removed his hand, he could see the jagged outline of the symbol imprinted on the paper. It was broken in places where there was a crease from his hand, and right in the middle of the black dot he could see the familiar shape of a burn scar he'd gotten a few years ago when he'd refused to let go of the Millennium Puzzle in the midst of a warehouse fire.
Satisfied that the symbol was both recognizable and clearly an imprint from his hand, he picked up the marker again and wrote two kanji characters beneath it, forming a single Japanese word: kansei. Complete. He considered writing the verb form to make it a clear direction rather than a description, but decided just to leave it. Atem would understand. He was, after all, Yugi's other self.
Yugi waved the paper in the air a few times to let the ink dry then, with great care, he folded the sheet of paper into quarters and put it inside the Puzzle box along with Téa's marker. Then he put the lid on the box and brought it back to the couch, scooped up the game and a few other of Atem's things that he'd been looking at, and took all of it to the open safe where Ishizu was keeping the belongings that were to be returned to his tomb. Placing everything inside, he kept his hand on the lid of the Puzzle box a moment and closed his eyes. Thank you. For everything. And then, with a slow and almost reverent movement, he withdrew his hand and closed the safe door. With a definitive click, the lock latched into place, sealing the Puzzle box and its contents inside. With a final bow of his head, he turned and headed out of Ishizu's study to join his friends.
He found them in the parlor, gathered together in several small groups. Pegasus and his grandfather were having a discussion that bordered on an argument—who knew what it was about. Kaiba and Rebecca were on opposite sides of a card table clearing up the remains of a chess game. Kaiba wore a smug, satisfied expression, while Rebecca was uttering loud complaints in a way that was just so Rebecca, Yugi couldn't help but smile. After a couple days of quiet from her, even her griping sounded good to his ears. Mokuba was trying to placate her, while Sara watched the entire proceedings with wry amusement. Nearby, Bakura and Marik were having a conversation with Joey, Mai, and Téa. Bakura laughed at something Marik said, and Téa and Mai both snickered along with him, but Joey was looking past them, chewing on his lip as he glared across the room at Tristan, Serenity, and Duke. Duke was standing behind a couch where the other two sat, leaning over so that his head was between them and his arms around both their shoulders. He and Tristan were waging one of their typical verbal sparring matches over something or another while Serenity rolled her eyes in strained patience at the two of them. Odion appeared in front of them, ever the accommodating host, and interrupted the squabble to ask if any of them needed one last coffee or bit of food before they left. Rashida was also circulating the room, picking up empty glasses and half-eaten plates of umm ali until Ishizu, regal and unassailable, stepped over and issued a firm reminder that they were family, not servants, and insisted that they put down the dishes.
In the midst of the sort of companionable chaos, Joey caught sight of Yugi and beckoned him over. "Yo, Yuge, did you hear that Pegasus hired a stretch limo to take us back to the hotel?"
"He did?" Yugi joined their group, slipping an arm around Téa's waist. She gave him a questioning look, and he smiled and gave a small nod in response.
"Yeah. He wants to talk over the plans for the next tournament on the way back." Joey looked at Téa. "Where'd you say Nationals was?"
"Oh, I love New Orleans." Mai smiled, her eyes bright. "The jazz, the French Quarter, the fabulous Creole food—"
"You got me convinced," Joey said.
"Me, too." Bakura nodded in eager agreement. Marik and Mai exchanged sympathetic looks of exasperation while Téa laughed.
Joey looked at Yugi. "So, you about ready to head out?"
Mai rolled her eyes. "Nationals isn't for three more months, lamebrain."
"I meant back to the hotel, your highness."
Yugi looked around the room at all his friends—his family—gathered there. "Yeah, Joey. I'm ready." He shifted his shoulders, letting the heartening new weight settle there. "Let's go."