1,001 Domino Nights
A Yugioh alternate-universe (paranormal) romance novel by Lucidscreamer
(Fusion with the Harlequin romance novel "A Wish…and a Kiss" by Margaret St. George)
A great writer once speculated that all libraries are connected through something called L-space, and that in the nexus -- the Library, if you will -- exists every book that has ever been or ever will be written.
After a day spent prowling through dusty work-, display, and storage rooms, Yugi was beginning to wonder if there wasn't something similar for museums, and if Crawford Hall was the nexus. Technically, Crawford Hall was not a museum; it was a university archive, packed from lofty rafters to musty basements with the archaeological detritus of almost a century of exploration. Some of the artifacts had been in storage so long no one at Domino University had any idea they were there -- much less what they were or who had found them. Now it was Yugi's appointed task to catalogue every piece of the massive collection by the end of summer. As impossible tasks went, it was Herculean. As a way of getting one short and suddenly controversial archaeologist out of sight and out of mind, it was genius.
Alone at the long worktable he had commandeered for his own, Yugi slumped lower in his chair and wished heartily for a cushion. And some Advil. And possibly a back rub. He was hot, dusty, and exhausted. He hadn't seen another human being in hours, and the weighty silence of the venerable old building was beginning to get to him. The only reason he hadn't given up and gone home, demoralized by the crushing task ahead of him, was the knowledge that the personnel office had promised to send over an assistant and he couldn't afford to pass up even woefully inadequate help. Not that two people had any better chance than one of completing the inventory in the time allotted, but at least his misery would have company. He glanced at his wristwatch. 4:05. Where was this fabled assistant, anyway? If he or she didn't come along soon, Yugi was going to be flopped over the table and snoring by the time they arrived.
Determined to remain awake, he went back to fiddling with the puzzle pieces he had found in a small golden chest in one of the sub-basements. It had been tossed rather ignominiously into a dilapidated cardboard storage carton with a handful of stone axes and the remains of some long-dead explorer's pith helmet, which looked as if it had been chewed by a camel. The carton had fallen apart when Yugi moved it, and the puzzle's box had fallen on his foot, proving it was heavier than it looked. His toes still smarted from the impact.
He turned one of the thick metal pieces over in his hand. The dust had brushed right off, and now each piece shone like a miniature sun when he held it up to the light. They were geometric, made of some metal that looked like gold, but probably wasn't given the carelessness of the artifact's storage, and were the very devil to fit together. He had been working on the puzzle, off and on, for several hours and had only a portion of it completed. For Yugi -- who finished the New York Times Sunday crossword in less than ten minutes and had never met a Rubik's Cube he didn't like -- this was something of a frustrating novelty. He growled under his breath as he manipulated the puzzle piece, finally finding the proper way to fit it into the form that was slowly taking shape in his hands.
A pyramid, he thought, twisting another piece between his fingers. It's going to be a pyramid.
He eyed what he thought must be the central piece, a large flat shape with a raised Egyptian eye on one side. I guess a pyramid shape makes sense, what with the hieroglyphs on the box and the Eye of Horus on the puzzle itself… Although… I've never heard of the Egyptians making something like this. Maybe it's just a modern tourist piece that someone lost in the archive?
Recalling some of the tales his mentor had regaled him with in the past, Yugi would not have been surprised to find that such was the case. He wouldn't be surprised to find the camel that had chewed on that long-dead explorer's helmet stored somewhere in the vast confines of Crawford Hall. For that matter, he almost expected to stumble across said explorer, mummified in red tape and packed away in a forgotten basement.
Another puzzle piece slid into place, this time with surprising ease. Startled out of his reverie, Yugi looked down to find he had completed over half of the puzzle while working on autopilot. A tiny grin tugged at the corner of his mouth. Grandpa always did say Yugi's mind got in his way more often than not. Letting his fingers work on their own, he set another three pieces into the growing pyramid shape in rapid succession.
Well, he thought wryly, at least I'll have accomplished something today. Even if it was just putting a souvenir puzzle together.
Yugi's eyes were sliding shut when he finally fitted the center piece into the puzzle. It was, as he had thought it would be, a golden pyramid, large enough to fill his hand when he cradled it in his palm. He set the last piece in place, yawned, and then yelped as the pyramid seemed to pulse with heat and light. Startled, he dropped the pyramid. It clattered to the floor under the table. Grumbling to himself, Yugi eased down onto one knee and scrabbled blindly for the errant artifact.
"I have come to do your bidding-- Master?"
The voice, totally unexpected and startling in the oppressive quiet of the workroom, made Yugi jump. His head banged into the bottom of the solid oak table and he cursed under his breath. "Ow!"
"Master?" The voice, which was definitely male, sounded confused and a bit irritated. "Where are you?"
Clutching the puzzle in one hand and his aching head in the other, Yugi climbed back into his chair. He got a vague impression of the person standing across from him -- tall, male, and annoyed. Well, fine. At the moment, Yugi wasn't feeling too cheerful himself.
"Oh," said the other man. "There you are." He cleared his throat, and his deep voice took on a tone laden with portent. "I have come to do your bidding."
"Peachy." Yugi briefly considered "bidding" the voice's owner to fetch him some aspirin. Yugi's new headache was his fault, after all. It was the least he could do. However, Yugi had never been one to abuse power, so, instead, he squinted up at his new assistant. He seemed rather theatrical -- and it had certainly taken him long enough to arrive -- but Yugi wasn't going to look a gift horse, er, assistant in the mouth.
Then he got his first real look at the man.
When Yugi had picked his metaphorical jaw up off the floor, and beaten his hormones into temporary submission, he managed a single, coherent thought. At least the summer wouldn't be boring. Not with this prime specimen of eye-candy around to keep him occupied.
The man was taller than Yugi -- though that wasn't saying much, as most people over the age of twelve were taller than Yugi. He had surprisingly broad shoulders considering his "long and lean" build, with tanned, well-muscled arms revealed by the sleeveless black shirt he wore. Tight black jeans hugged narrow hips and seemingly endless legs. A silver chain encircled his waist in place of a belt, and thick leather cuffs with matching studs enclosed both wrists. His hair was a wild halo, dark at the roots but flaming red where the light caught it at the tips. A curtain of jagged bangs, as golden as the puzzle still clutched in Yugi's hand, framed a handsome face with sharp, aristocratic features and eyes the color of mahogany.
Yugi had to remind himself to breathe. He wet his lips and said, "Um, I'm Dr. Mutou -- Yugi, you can call me Yugi, everybody does, I don't mind. I'm the assistant dean of archaeology. Uh, I guess they told you that at the personnel office when they sent you over."
Yugi resisted the urge to bury his face in his palm, all too aware that he was babbling. "Anyway, we've got a tremendous job ahead of us this summer and not much pay or glory awaits us at its end. I'll be honest with you. There's no way the two of us are going to finish inventorying this building by the start of fall classes. It'll take a miracle just to complete one floor. Remember that warehouse at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie? Yeah, it has nothing on Crawford Hall. The Ark of the Covenant is probably hiding in here somewhere, along with a stuffed camel and my spare keys, which I could have sworn were in my pocket, but I haven't seen them since last Thursday. So..."
Having run out of breath, Yugi pasted on what he hoped was an encouraging smile -- but suspected was more like a nervous rictus -- and soldiered on in the face of his new assistant's intimidating scowl. "Most of this stuff has been here so long everyone's forgotten it's even here. The bad news is that there's a lot of stuff." He glanced around the room. Floor-to-ceiling shelves loomed in every direction, and every shelf overflowed with cartons, crates, and boxes filled with… stuff. "The good news is that we might uncover a forgotten treasure or two, if we're lucky."
Yugi paused, waiting for a response that never came. The other man simply watched him with unblinking eyes, like a great cat waiting to pounce. Or maybe like someone who had heard all the rumors about Yugi and was waiting to see if they were true. He stood still as a statue, except for the fingers on one hand, which absently rubbed the smooth leather of the cuff on his opposite wrist.
Never one to let an awkward silence go unfilled, Yugi mentally flailed around for something else to say. "Uh, for example--" His hands clenched, and the sudden bite of a sharp metal edge reminded him of the puzzle he still held. "--this pyramid puzzle! I've never seen anything quite like it, and I only discovered it by accident while going through some… other…"
Yugi trailed off, recognizing the complete lack of expression on the other's face for what it was: utter boredom. Sheer indifference. A barely concealed desire for Yugi to shut the hell up about inconsequentials and just get on with it already. Yugi felt heat suffuse his face and quickly dropped his gaze to his hands as he fidgeted with the puzzle.
"Um, sorry. I sometimes forget that not everyone is as enthusiastic about archaeology as I am." Yugi glanced up to find the other man watching him, arms folded. The pose stretched the black shirt taut across his chest, emphasizing the lean muscle there. "Anyway, the hours are long and the pay stinks, but I'll try to be a good boss, at least, and so the job's yours if you want it."
The man's expression didn't alter. "I am yours to command, most learned master." The impatience in the deep baritone was at odds with the low bow that accompanied his words.
Yugi stared at him. Oh, great. The personnel center had sent him a crazy person. A handsome crazy person, but a crazy person nonetheless. Peachy. Too bad Yugi was just desperate enough to take him on anyway. "Okay, then. I guess that means you'll take the job. So… What do I call you?"
Mr. Tall-Dark-and-Insane did not roll his eyes, but Yugi could see the impulse to do so writ large in their depths. "I am your genie, master. You may address me in whatever manner you see fit."
The self-proclaimed genie's second bow was as deep and graceful as the first, though Yugi detected a hint of mockery in this one. As if Yugi were being the weird one in this conversation. "Seriously, though. What's your name?"
A dark eyebrow rose. "You wish to know my true name?"
"Well, it would beat calling you 'hey, you' all summer." Yugi had no compunctions about rolling his eyes. "It's not a secret, is it? Or have you forgotten it?"
"I know my name." The man's voice was like velvet, even when taut with annoyance. "It is simply that no one has asked me my name in… a very long time."
Yugi blinked. "Either you've got a strange sense of time, or they were being more lax than usual over at personnel, because it couldn't have been that long since you were in the office--"
"It has been more than two centuries."
Oh, good. The man really was insane. Yugi did so enjoy being right. Just once, he'd like to be right about something positive, but you had to take your victories where you could get them. He sighed. "Look, Mr. No-Name. It would take a team of experts plus Indiana Jones at least a year to inventory this mess. I have one summer and the clock is ticking. I don't have time to play games--"
It seemed impossible, but the man's posture radiated even more resentment than before. "My name is Atem."
"Oh. Sorry." Yugi breathed a little laugh, cheeks heating up with embarrassment. "Uh, just 'Atem'? You don't have a last name or--?"
"There is more--" Atem's jaw clenched so hard it made Yugi's mouth ache. "--but I doubt you could pronounce it. Master."
"Ooo-kay. Atem it is, then!" Yugi clapped his hands briskly -- or tried to; the puzzle got in his way. Embarrassed, he set it on the table. "Do I detect the trace of an accent? Where are you from, if you don't mind my asking?"
Looking up, he found Atem studying him with narrowed eyes that, from Yugi's angle, seemed to glint almost red in the artificial light. "Uh, never mind. Didn't mean to pry! I was just making conversation, which is obviously not the best idea I've ever had, so let's move on, shall we?"
Turning his gaze away from the unforgiving stare in those mahogany eyes, Yugi began gathering up the artifacts scattered on the table and placing them back into the carton. He eyed the completed puzzle. It would never fit back into its box in its current state, but it seemed a shame to dismantle it again.
As if sensing the direction of Yugi's thoughts, Atem said, "The puzzle is no longer of any importance. It does not matter what you do with it." Ignoring Yugi's stare, he ran his long fingers across the battered surface of the table as if reading the wood's history in Braille.
"The puzzle will shatter -- and vanish -- once you have made your third wish."
And they were back to the genie thing. Peachy. Yugi couldn't quite figure out why Atem had seen him working on the puzzle and made the leap to genie, of all things -- it might be different if Yugi had been cleaning a lamp or a ring -- but the joke was getting old. He shook his head. It was late in the day, he was tired, and his leg hurt.
Deciding to ignore the comment and hope that was the end of it, Yugi said, "Would you do me a favor and bring me my cane? I left it over by the door."
An absent gesture indicated the proper direction while Yugi concentrated on tucking the puzzle and its box into a corner of the carton. That done, he bent to retrieve his briefcase from beneath his chair. He would prefer not to see the expression in those mahogany eyes when Atem realized that Yugi was--
"Your cane, Master Mutou."
Yugi jumped. Atem must have run all the way across the room and back to retrieve the cane that fast, though Yugi hadn't heard him, and surely his steps would have echoed on the wooden floor if he had run. But Atem held the cane out to him, laid across his palms like an offering.
"Um… Thanks." Dreading what he might see there, Yugi's gaze flickered up to meet Atem's as he rose and took the cane. But Atem's regal mask remained unchanged, his indifference unbroken by even a hint of curiosity. Perversely, that very indifference made Yugi determined to explain.
"I walk with a cane sometimes because I have one leg that is shorter and weaker than the other. An accident at birth -- my parents were on a dig in a remote area in Turkey and I was about a month and a half early." He shrugged. "It's not usually a problem, but when I'm very tired or have put a lot of stress on my leg, well…"
Yugi's calf muscles twinged at the reminder of all the climbing he had done today, up and down both countless stairs and the ladder he had used to reach some of the higher shelves. In the future, he thought he would leave the upper reaches of the collection to his new assistant. Too bad the elevators -- ancient, creaking metal cages that did not inspire confidence at the best of times, but sometimes beat taking the stairs if his leg hurt badly enough -- were still not working. Yugi thought he might have braved them today, rather than shuffling down three flights of stairs to reach the ground floor. He groaned at the thought. He had definitely overdone it.
Moving slowly, Yugi started for the distant door. "It's nice to have the cane, especially for all the stairs that are in this building."
"Yes, I know."
Huh? Yugi shot him a confused glance. "Know? What do you know?"
"Everything." A faint smirk graced Atem's lips. "I know everything about you."
Okay, that was just creepy. And kind of stalkerish. What exactly were those clowns in personnel saying about him anyway? Were the gossips blabbing all the sordid details about last summer to everyone on campus? Yugi's brows drew together in a dark frown. "What did they tell you before they sent you over here, anyway? Is this somebody's idea of a joke? 'Cause I have to tell you, it's not funny."
Yugi opened his mouth to tell Atem to knock off the genie shtick -- and froze, his mouth hanging open as if he had forgotten how to close it. Instead of the corridor outside the workroom, they were standing in front of Crawford Hall. Yugi's jaw worked a couple of times, but no sound emerged. Impossible! He had no memory of navigating the narrow stairwells that led from the third floor down to the lobby, or of crossing the expansive, marble tiled lobby and exiting onto the front steps of the venerable edifice. The briefcase fell from his suddenly numb fingers. Yugi reached instinctively for something to anchor himself in this spinning mockery of reality, and latched onto Atem's arm as he stared at his impossible surroundings with wide, startled eyes.
Everything else seemed normal enough. Students strolled across the concrete paths connecting the buildings, or sat on benches to chat or study. A few people lounged beneath the trees that dotted the greensward just up the hill from Crawford Hall. Water bubbled and splashed in the fountain in the courtyard below. No one even glanced in Yugi's direction. His fingers tightened on the bare arm he clung to like a lifeline while he tried to get his racing heart to slow.
Beside Yugi, Atem closed his eyes and raised his face to the late-afternoon sun. As if to himself, he murmured, "The heat of the sun, the scent of grass and trees and water… No memory, no illusion or feat of imagination can reproduce this--" He broke off when Yugi's nails dug into his arm. The usual frown stole back over Atem's face. "Master? Are you unwell?"
Yugi snatched his hand away from Atem's bare arm, balled his tingling fingers into a fist, then straightened one finger to shake it in Atem's face. "You -- What -- How?!"
Atem's brow furrowed in a look that managed to combine frustration, irritation, and a complete lack of sympathy. "What displeases you now?"
Too busy trying to figure out how he had apparently blacked-out and lost time while still managing to walk from the third floor of Crawford Hall all the way to the outside steps, Yugi ignored the question. He pressed a trembling hand to his forehead, where he could feel a doozy of a tension headache settling in for an overnight stay, and tried to think. In a distracted voice, he mumbled, "Did I lock the door?" He couldn't remember that, either.
"If you desire the door to be locked, then it is locked, master."
Yugi pinched the bridge of his nose. "Okay, the genie stuff was cute -- for about five seconds -- but I'm over that now. And stop calling me master!"
Instantly contrite, Yugi sighed. "Sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you. I've had a very long day. I'm tired, I ache all over, and now I'm apparently having some sort of nervous breakdown. So, I'd really appreciate it if you'd stop acting like a genie, okay?"
Atem's mouth twisted into something bitter and humorless that not even an eternal optimist like Yugi could call a smile. "Believe me, Master Mutou, if I could stop acting like a genie, I would."
Whatever that meant. Yugi couldn't stop to figure it out; he could still feel the panic surging through his veins and his patience had just about run out. "Look, I really mean it. Don't call me 'master' -- and 'Master Mutou' is even worse. I'm not sure whether it sounds like I should be wearing Jedi robes or bondage gear, but either way is just plain weird, so cut it out. Call me doctor or professor or Yugi -- but no more 'master'! Please?"
Yugi started down the steps -- needing the extra help of his cane more than ever, since his knees were shaky and his stomach wouldn't seem to stop trying to turn itself inside out -- his hand white-knuckled on the curving handle of the cane. Without looking back at Atem, he called, "I'll see you on Monday, all right? Eight a.m. sharp. Good-bye!"
"Would you like me to carry your briefcase?"
Atem's voice sounded in Yugi's ear, far too close, as if the man had teleported from the top of the steps to Yugi's side. Yugi yelped, stumbled, and would have fallen if Atem had not caught him. Atem righted Yugi and let him go -- all so matter-of-factly that Yugi found it impossible to take offense. Still, he gave it his best shot, just on principle. Unfortunately for him, Yugi had never been very good at glaring, so the resulting expression was more of a pout than the intimidating glower he had been going for.
"Thanks," Yugi mumbled, shifting away from the taller man. "But I don't think we're going in the same direction."
Atem apparently held a black-belt in the ancient art of Glower-fu. "You are the most confusing master I have ever had. I've no idea how to interpret half the things you say. It is extremely… annoying."
Yugi ground to an unsteady halt beneath the massive unfairness of that accusation. "Me?! I'm confusing? I'm annoying? Hello, Mr. Pot, Mr. Kettle is on line four, something about the color black!"
"Thank you for proving my point, master," Atem said stiffly. His hands were braced on his hips and the look in his eyes declared Yugi 'King of the Obtuse.' "Is it not obvious that I must go where you go? I must remain within reach of the sound of your voice at all times. I have no choice in the matter -- it is the rule."
Rule? What the hell was Atem talking about? "What the hell are you talking about?"
Atem's eyes glittered through narrowed lids. "You summoned me by solving the puzzle, O most confounding master. Yet you spoke as if you wished me to serve you by choice. You wish the contents of that building inventoried, yet you state it cannot be done. You pry into my history, but are angered that I know yours--"
"I just wanted to know your name!"
Atem raked a hand through his bangs and gritted his teeth. "And, now, you bid me farewell as if our business is concluded, when clearly it is not, and act surprised when I follow you, even though you have made no wishes!"
The truth hit Yugi like a collapsing pyramid. Atem believed everything he was saying. This wasn't a joke. The poor man really thought he was a genie. Yugi wondered why he hadn't realized it sooner. Now, all Yugi had to do was figure out how to get Atem back to his family -- or his therapist, or his keepers, or whatever the applicable term was -- before something happened to the unfortunate fellow.
"I'm sorry I didn't understand sooner." Yugi patted Atem's arm. At least the nice delusional man was a nice delusional man. Yugi's luck tended to run more toward "megalomaniac convinced destroying Yugi was the key to taking over the world." Case in point: Marik Ishtar. Yugi hadn't dated for an entire year after that fiasco. He still cringed whenever anyone mentioned ancient Egypt or pharaohs, which in his line of work was unfortunately quite frequently. Giving himself a shake, he focused again on the current crisis, patting Atem's arm again and trying to look around for a campus security officer without looking like he was looking for a campus security officer. "Can you tell me your doctor's name?"
Atem glared at him. Damn, but the man really had that expression down pat. He must get a lot of practice. Maybe he could give Yugi some tips. Yugi took a second look. Probably not, judging by the waves of indignation rolling off the man like desert heat.
"What?" Then Yugi realized what he had said. Oops. Stuck his foot in it again. "Or, um, not doctor. Not doctor, but… the head genie? Yeah. I'm sure the head genie would want to know what a good job of… genie-ing you've done, today. So, why don't we give him a call and--"
The look Atem gave him said in no uncertain terms who Atem thought was the deranged one here. Time to try a different tack. Yugi smiled -- it sagged a bit at the corners, but it was still a smile, damn it! -- and, in a falsely cheerful voice, said, "I think it's time for you to go home, now. Do you know where you live? The address, I mean. If you'll tell me, I'll take you there in my car. I'll bet someone is getting awfully worried about you."
"You think that I am insane," Atem said, in a tone dripping with disbelief. His eyes widened. "You do not believe me. You think that I am an escaped lunatic."
"Don't be silly!" Where was a SWAT team when Yugi needed one? Incredulous anger bloomed on the self-proclaimed genie's face, and Yugi cringed. Operation: Placation wasn't working. Just his luck he was too tired and achy to run, too. He tried the arm pat again. "Of course I believe you! You're a genie. I'm sure you're a very good genie--"
Atem lifted Yugi's hand off his arm and took a single stride back. His expression was as dark as a thundercloud, and suddenly his jagged bangs reminded Yugi of lightning bolts about to strike. A storm of epic proportions brewed in those mahogany eyes as Atem drew himself up to his full height -- and did he seem taller suddenly, as if he had shot up at least a foot when he straightened? -- and glared at Yugi.
"I appeared when you solved the puzzle. When you asked for your cane, I summoned it to my hand. To spare you pain, I moved you from the upper floor of the building to the terrace in the blink of an eye. Your 'impossible' inventory is completed." Atem's jaw tightened until the color bled from his skin. "What more must I do to convince you, my most skeptical master, that I am what I say I am?"
Yugi gripped his cane, leaning heavily on it as his mind raced. That flash of light and heat when he'd completed the puzzle -- could that have been Atem appearing, as he claimed? Yugi shook his head. No, that was nuts! How could he even entertain such an idea? But…
How had he gotten from the workroom to outside so quickly? He had taken a step across the threshold and wound up on the terrace. It couldn't be real. But what was the logical explanation?
"This isn't happening," Yugi whispered. His mouth felt as dry as the Sahara, and he swallowed painfully. "I don't believe it. It can't be…" He darted a look up at Atem. "I don't believe in genies."
"Unfortunately, your belief does not affect my state of being, master. Would that it did."
Yugi didn't even attempt to winkle the meaning out of that one. His head spinning, he clutched his briefcase to his chest like a shield, and tried not to hyperventilate. "What did you -- You said-- That is, I thought you said that… Um. The inventory?"
"It is finished." Atem crossed his arms over his chest, sunlight glinting off the studs at his wrists and the chain threaded through his belt loops. "Every item, in every room, on every floor."
"But… That's…" Yugi swayed. "Crawford Hall is five stories tall and has two basement levels."
"Every item. In every room. On every floor." The genie's tone was implacable. "Each item is cross-referenced as to provenance, type of artifact, age and composition …"
Impossible. What Atem was claiming was impossible. You couldn't just wish up an inventory (Yugi had spent about half an hour that morning trying). He grabbed at the first logical objection that floated past him on his sea of confusion. "Yeah, well… If what you say is true, then where is it? Where's the inventory list?" Ha! Yugi had him now!
"On your worktable. The hard copy is in thirty-three notebooks. The electronic copy, along with a back-up copy, is in the small plastic case next to them."
"Oh, yeah? We'll just see about that!" Yugi snapped, having spotted the flaw in Atem's delusion. Ignoring the pain in his leg, he set off back into Crawford Hall at the fastest clip he could manage. "Wait there! I want to see this so-called inventory for myself."
"I must remain within range of your voice."
Oh, yeah. The "genie rules." Just who the heck came up with such stupid rules, anyway? Yugi wanted a word with Rule Guy, since this particular stupid rule meant he was about to be alone in a deserted building with a delusional man who thought he was a genie and that Yugi was his master. This, Yugi couldn't help feeling, was Not a Good Thing, despite the fact that Delusional Genie Guy was gorgeous and--
Yugi choked on his own breath. One second he was storming -- okay, limping, but the intent was there -- toward the main entrance of Crawford Hall, and in the next, he was standing in front of his worktable on the third floor. The inadequate lights gleamed off the shiny covers of thirty-three neatly stacked and labeled binders. Beside the stack rested a clear plastic case containing the promised computer media files.
Yugi's heart slammed against his ribcage. Spots danced before his eyes. He stared at the notebooks, then at Atem. "You..."
Atem raised an eyebrow. He managed -- just-- not to appear smug, but it was clearly a struggle.
"I'm…" Yugi swallowed, hard. "I'm not dreaming, right? Sometimes, I fall asleep at my desk and--"
"You are quite awake, master."
"And that's--" Yugi reached out a trembling hand and flipped open one of the binders, turning a few pages. He felt dizzy. "Oh, and it's illustrated. In full color. How… nice." Like the room around him, Yugi's voice was fading. "And, you did all this in, like, sixty seconds."
"You're a genie!" Yugi said -- and fainted onto a silk-covered couch that hadn't been there a heartbeat ago.