I've been planning this ever since the beginning of last year, on paper, during whatever spare time I have in-between school and family and friends. So yes, be prepared for its length. (It even surpasses my other fic, Circles, and that was pretty damn long already. o.o This is...uh, almost double the word length...)

This was supposed to be for Christmas/New Years, which I'm late for, so also think of this as a present for all of us who need to go back to school tomorrow. At least for me. u_u

Nobility, Stupidity
By – Hime no Ichigo

Genre: Drama/Romance
Rating: PG
Pairings: Yami/Yuugi, touch of Bakura/Ryou, implied Seto/Jounouchi
Story Type: One-shot
Summary: Where's the line between being noble and stupid? Is the happiness of one person enough to sacrifice your own?

Disclaimers: I don't own these pretty bishounens. I wish I do though. ;o; Also, I do not own the restaurants Tsuki no Shizuku or Gompachi, nor their menu contents.

Spoilers: Use of Yami's real name. Also, this is post-series, where Yami is granted a new body...just work with me, 'kay?

Warnings/Notes: I give a lot of credit to a Chinese drama, where I drew inspiration for about the first half of the story. The second half took off in another direction without my permission so I was trying to salvage that... (sigh)

-----

"See, you can't be too subtle about what you wear, but you don't want to be overly obvious either. You'd want her to notice you, not to scare her away."

"But are you sure?" He tugged at the black dress shirt. "I don't know, this doesn't feel like...it's up to the occasion." He looked down at the matching pair of black dress pants he was suggested to try on. "It feels too...casual."

"Well, she didn't ask you to go to a ball or a formal event or anything like that. So I say wearing something casual yet with a hint of elegance is good enough. Here, this should complete the perfect outfit."

He took the creamy white sweater and patted it on top of his chest. "You think?"

"Definitely."

He turned to survey himself with the change-room's body length mirror. "Hmm..."

"Have you thought of what to get her?"

"Uh..."

"I'll take that as a 'no'. Again, you don't want to give her something that would be too obvious about your intentions... Aha! A brooch! That's almost a one hundred percent guarantee never-fail gift."

Once more he looked down, at the twin glittering butterflies held above his heart. He felt his breath catch and his heart skipped a beat. "It's stunning..."

"Mmhmm, chances are she's going to remember you whenever she wears it."

"Thank you, Yuugi, I don't know what I'd do without you."

"It's nothing, mou—Atemu."

But he didn't even notice the awkward cover-up. Yuugi hid a sigh as Atemu walked towards the counter to pay for his purchases.

-----

"Jounouchi-kun?"

"Yeah, Yuugi?"

"You got a minute?"

"All the time in the world for you, buddy." Jounouchi paused. "You okay? Where are you right now?"

He bit his lower lip. "At the mall, helping Atemu... Listen, is it all right for me to come over for a bit? There's something I need to talk to you about that I'd rather not say over the phone, let alone in public."

"Now?"

"If it's possible, please?"

"All right. I'll have to clean up the place first though."

Yuugi laughed weakly. "Thanks, Jounouchi-kun, you're the best." Having exchanged good-byes, he estimated he should give his friend at least twenty minutes to tidy up his apartment. He put his cell phone back into the right pocket of his jeans just as Atemu walked out of the store.

"Yuugi?"

"Yes, Atemu?" He turned around to face his former other self.

"There's something I've always wanted to tell you..."

"Oh?"

"Well, it's..." He shifted his weight from one leg to the other, nervous. "I've liked you for a long time and..." He stuffed the box under the other's nose. "This is for you," he mumbled.

Yuugi looked utterly bewildered and surprised. "Wha—at? Atemu, what are you doing?" His heart thumped wildly, hoping against hope he wasn't hearing things.

Atemu's face fell noticeably. "I knew it!"

"Knew what?"

"That she's going to reject me like what you did just now! Yuugi," he gripped his shoulders tightly; Yuugi winced. "I'm so scared! Maybe I shouldn't go meet her at all...maybe I shouldn't tell her at all...then we can still stay as friends..."

"Atemu, snap out of it!" Yuugi shrugged free of the other's vice grip and returned the gesture, only on his biceps. He felt his eyes sting, and he knew it wasn't the result from Atemu's tight hold. "Things will turn out fine; you've got to be confident in yourself. You've got looks, smarts; you can be humorous, you're a comfortable person to hang around. Here," he hesitated, but plunged on before he could second-guess himself. "Say it again."

"What?"

"Repeat to me what you want to say to her. Put some conviction into it," Yuugi insisted forcefully. 'Pretend I'm her for the next few minutes.'

Atemu took a deep breath and looked at the other right in the eye. "Ever since I first met you..." Yuugi's breath hitched and his heart hurried its pace at the sight of the beautiful fire inside those crimson irises. The words were floating over his head, their meanings empty to him and were only meant for the lucky girl, but he wished – he wished they were for him. Atemu continued without noticing Yuugi's lack of attention, focused on getting his confession-speech right. Yuugi's eyes swept over the still untameable blond bangs with the ebony-magenta background, to the slanted eyes and shapely eyebrows that arched perfectly, to his cheekbones where a healthy blush splashed across his face, contrasting nicely with the pale skin tone, rosy lips mouthing words he didn't care about. His Adam's apple moved slightly as he swallowed, and Yuugi became painfully aware that he'd been staring too intensely. Atemu was just about to wrap up. "...will you accept this brooch as a token of my affections?"

Yuugi's voice jammed at his vocal cords. One part of him wanted to – for real, but the other side reminded him that he was only here as practice. Only that, nothing more. "...I accept, Atemu," Yuugi whispered, eyes stinging again, his hands shaking as he took the box under Atemu's anxious gaze.

"Thank you, Yuugi, thank you, thank you, thank you," Atemu's serious mask instantly broke into a wide grin, thinking Yuugi was playing the role a little too well to prepare him for a crying lady. On a spur of moment he hugged Yuugi tightly around the waist. "I'm going to go home and get ready now. Don't wait up for me!"

"...good luck, mou hitori no..." Yuugi murmured at Atemu's rapidly retreating back. He couldn't finish his sentence. Not with the tears that broke through the dam, blurred his vision, and clogged his throat.

-----

Ding dong.

"Coming!" The door threw open. "Yuugi! What happened?"

"May I come on, Jounouchi-kun?"

"Of course, of course," Jounouchi ushered him through the door and locked it behind them, toeing away stray beer bottles his father must have left around the hall. "Dad's not here, by the way. What's wrong, Yuugi? Your eyes are all red and puffy." He motioned for his houseguest to take off his jacket, which Yuugi shook his head to. He felt funny inside, hot and cold at the same time, so he settled to only unzipping it. Jounouchi led the way to the kitchen, not that Yuugi was unfamiliar with the apartment's floor plan. "What do you want to drink? Hot chocolate?"

"That's fine, Jounouchi-kun, thanks."

Yuugi slouched dully at the table, staring at the polished cherrywood that seemed to have seen better days, while Jounouchi busied himself with pouring hot water into two mugs and stirring. "There you go, Yuugi. Marshmallows or anything else?"

He shook his head again. "I'm good, thanks."

Jounouchi nodded, although Yuugi was oblivious to this. He sat opposite to his friend, leaning on his right elbow. "So?" He prompted, lifting his cup and sipping, spluttering as it burned his tongue slightly.

"...I did it, Jounouchi-kun." It was so quiet, the blond needed to lean in to catch the words.

"Did 'it'?" He blinked, confused. "You've got to remind me...there are so many things you want to do, Yuugi," he tried to joke and lighten up the mood.

"I told Atemu that I—that I—"

For the second time in thirty minutes his shoulders were gripped. "What did he say? He didn't reject you, did he?"

"It's not as simple as that, Jounouchi-kun." He sighed, gently prying the other's hands away from his already slightly bruised shoulders after moving his mug safely out of the way. "You see...he doesn't exactly know how I feel. I sort of...indirectly told him that." At Jounouchi's knitted eyebrows he hurried to clarify the situation. "I told him in the position of a girl. Of the girl he likes...he's going to meet her tonight." He looked away from his friend's intensive stare.

Tick, tock.

"You did not," Jounouchi growled after a moment. "Tell me you did not just do that."

"I did," Yuugi contradicted quietly.

"Dammit, Yuugi, what's the matter with you? You're not wrong in loving Atemu – and I think he has a right to know how you feel. Why can't you be selfish for once? What about your happiness? What about your—?"

"His happiness is my happiness."

Jounouchi stopped his tirade, then scowled. "Yuugi—"

"I'd rather one of us is happy than both of us avoiding each other for the rest of our lives."

"Yuugi..."

"You can't change my mind, Jounouchi-kun, but thank you for the attempt anyway." He smiled faintly. "I'll be all right, after tonight anyways..." He straightened up, and in the process his fingers fell and brushed against a small velvet box in his jacket's pocket. His eyes widened. "Oh no!"

"What—?"

"He forgot to take the brooch back! What's he going to give her?"

Jounouchi's eyes suddenly gleamed as he tried to calm his panicking and distressed friend. "When's Atemu going to meet this girl?"

"At six."

Jounouchi waited for him to continue, but Yuugi seemed to have finished. So he prompted him. "Er – knowing where would be helpful."

"Oh! Um, I believe it's...Tsuki no Shizuku?"

He glanced at the clock. "We still have enough time to get there before he does. C'mon, Yuugi!"

"What?" He paled, watching the blond push his chair back and walking away. It didn't take a genius to figure out exactly what his friend was concocting – after all, he was used to these spur-of-the-moment moments, but still – "Jounouchi-kun, no, wait, I can't—"

"You heard me. You do want his 'date' to go without a hitch, don't you?"

Yuugi frowned, slowly moving out of the kitchen and stopping at the doorway. Jounouchi was good at metaphorically tripping him like this. "...yeah."

"Then come on, we've got to move now." He motioned for the other to put on his shoes, Jounouchi himself already in his sneakers. "We'll take the train, it's faster than those useless taxis at this hour."

-----

"Jounouchi-kun, wait, stop, I don't think I can do this."

"Yuugi, what're you talking about?"

He played with the hem of his jacket. "I know all I have to do is just go in and give him the box, but Jounouchi-kun, I'm so scared – I'm afraid I'll do something stupid!"

"But we're already here!"

"That's exactly the problem! I know I should, but I can't bring myself to..."

Jounouchi placed a comforting hand on Yuugi's shoulder, making the slightly shorter adult look back up at him. "Yuugi, listen. You're not going to do something stupid. When we walk in there, we'll walk up to Atemu, you can give him the box and simply say 'You forgot to take this back', wish him luck, and then we'll leave. Does that sound good?"

Yuugi nodded slowly. "That's not what's entirely worrying me though, Jounouchi-kun..." But Jounouchi had already gotten all the confirmation he needed. He tugged on the other's arm and half dragged his friend into the restaurant, immediately starting to scan the place...except all he could see was silhouettes against bamboo blinds.

"...okay, so this may be a little harder than I thought. I can't see Atemu, Yuugi."

He squeaked. "Maybe he's not here yet – come on, let's just wait outside."

Jounouchi held on firmly. "No. We'll wait in here...besides, I've always wanted to try this place out." He turned to the receptionist. "Table for two, please."

"Right this way, sirs," she took two menus and led them to an unoccupied booth, almost to the end of the corridor. Yuugi bit his lower lip and kept his head lowered.

When the receptionist placed down the menus, wished them a pleasant dinner, and left, the shorter of the two turned towards his companion, in the process of taking off his shoes and leaving them by the door. "I don't get it, Jounouchi-kun, why do we have to do it this way? This makes everything so much more awkward – he'll think we've come to spy on hi—" Yuugi abruptly broke off, eyes wide. Jounouchi followed his line of vision and gave a quiet gasp.

Atemu was indeed not at the restaurant when they arrived, as Yuugi had predicted. He was dressed in the exact outfit Yuugi picked out for him earlier that afternoon; he also applied kohl to his eyes – something he wouldn't bother with on a daily basis nowadays. His hair stood up with precise sharpness but with a lack of rigidity, clothing without wrinkles and shiny, and shiny black shoes tapped gently against the wooden floorboards.

"Jounouchi-kun, quickly!" Yuugi hissed, yanking the blond by his arm and sliding the door closed softly as to not arouse any suspicion. "Atemu didn't see us, did he?"

"I don't think so," Jounouchi squirmed out of the other's grip. "Hey, wait a minute. Why are we hiding? I thought you're going to give him the brooch! Now it'll really seem like we're spying on him if you show up then retreat back here."

"...That's exactly what I've been trying to tell you, Jounouchi-kun; this is a Bad Idea."

Jounouchi only rolled his eyes at the slight emphasis, setting his sights on the fancy menu, not going to let his friend's cowardice ruin his appetite. "Don't say I didn't warn you, I've already gotten us this far already. Anyway," he continued before any retorts could be made. "This place's famous for tofu, want to try those?"

Grumbling about insensitive friends, Yuugi opened to the restaurant's Homemade Recommendations section. "That sounds good," he said absently, the two halves of his mind battling each other whether or not he should get up to go to Atemu's table.

The door slid open. Both tensed, but relaxed when only a waitress appeared to bring in two cups of hot, green tea with a smile. She didn't press them to order; she simply bowed out of the room and closed the door when she was fully outside.

"And chicken?" Jounouchi suggested. "Their grilled chicken's pretty good too..."

Yuugi nodded vaguely again, not really listening. Truthfully, he wasn't very hungry; his stomach was behaving strangely, twisting and leaving a frightened feeling behind. Why was he so nervous? It wasn't like he hadn't seen Atemu in that outfit before...heck, he just did, four hours ago! He shook his head. Where did that come from?

"Yuugi?"

Jounouchi's soft voice nudged him out of his own questions. "Yes, Jounouchi-kun?"

"You really don't want me to order everything. At this rate I'll have to try every single dish on the menu and we'll be broke."

He finally got a genuine laugh out of the tri-coloured hair young adult. "Actually, my stomach's not really agreeing with me tonight, so can we have something light? I don't want to upset it any further, or it's going to throw a mutiny or someth—"

"Darling!" The unmistakeable accent of a foreigner rang out.

They both froze at the voice who answered. It was so heartbreakingly familiar—

"Ah, there you are. Japan's parking spaces are so small... I didn't believe you at first, but now I wonder how you survived for twenty years."

A shuffle of shoes and the bamboo door slid open and closed. Then the voice spoke again – when did she come in? How come they never noticed her shadow? "Atemu, this is Nick, my boyfriend. I met him at the Dance Academy over at New York, and he's been fantastic, showing me around and things."

"That's nice." Atemu's voice sounded strained.

Plat. The menu fell on to the table, Yuugi's hands still in mid-air. They were right next to their booth.

"Anyway, I was hoping traffic wouldn't have been so bad; I wanted to have dinner with you but Nick's friend's Christmas party is going to start in half an hour, and Heaven knows the roads are horrible during this time of year. I'll keep in touch with you, Atemu." There was a small pause, and Yuugi's imagination went off-course trying to fill in the blanks. "Tell Yuugi and the rest of them I say hi!"

The bamboo door rustled. It was quiet next door, and gradually the other rooms' noise went back up to their original volume.

"..."

"Yuugi, go over there. Atemu probably needs—"

"No, Jounouchi-kun," he said shortly. "I know him. He won't open up at all, and if he sees us he'll think we followed him! You know how much he hates people invading his privacy..."

Jounouchi snorted. "You'd think after sharing a body with you for two years he would've realized secrets don't exist between the two of you."

Yuugi quirked a smile and stood up, carefully stowing the box back into his coat pocket and pulling out a few bills from his wallet, ignoring Jounouchi's protest. "Maybe it's a throwback to when he was Pharaoh. He was quite possessive of his things..." He cautiously slid open the door, and noted with relief that Next Door's stayed firmly shut. "C'mon Jou-kun, let's leave quietly before he sees us."

As they passed through the door, the receptionist gave them a disapproving look. "Good evening, sirs," she said stiffly, brows furrowed.

"I'll bet you we're not welcome there again any time soon," Jounouchi joked in an attempt to forget what just happened. Yuugi probably suffered the worst from that little scene. "I mean, she'd recognize your hair anywhere!"

"I suppose. But really Jou-kun, would we even go there on a regular basis?"

He chuckled uneasily. "No, don't think so. Our wallets would scream at us if we continuously wear big holes in them."

Yuugi laughed, earning him an odd glance. "Exactly."

They continued walking in silence. Down the busy street, waiting for the light to change, neon signs and flashing headlights...

"Hey, Jounouchi-kun?"

"Yeah?"

"Did...Anzu tell you she was visiting this Christmas?"

"...no..."

"I see..."

"..."

"Atemu must be hurting a lot," he continued to muse, gazing at the lights of the buildings at night.

"Then why don't you—"

"Because he hates it. He's always prided himself to be the stronger of the two of us, and even if he refuses to acknowledge it, he knows...and he's afraid. He likes to be the one who does the comforting, not the other way around."

"Yeah, but—"

This time he was interrupted by his cell phone. In his haste he didn't look at the call display first. "Hello?"

"Jounouchi-kun?"

"Yes, Atemu?" His eyes locked with Yuugi's wide ones.

"Don't tell him where we are," he mouthed. Jounouchi nodded. As if he was stupid enough to do so anyway.

"Where are you?"

"At, uh, home." He winced as a horn honked a couple of metres away.

Atemu didn't even seem to notice the unnatural noise and Jounouchi's hesitation. "Do you have some time?"

'Talk about déjà vu,' he thought before replying, "Sure, man." At Yuugi's encouraging nod, he asked, "do you have a place in mind?"

"The—" He stopped short.

"Atemu? Atemu, you still there?"

Yuugi gasped. Jounouchi wheeled around.

"Atemu!"

Jounouchi slowly lowered his cell phone and pressed the End Call button. "Well, this certainly is awkward..."

"Indeed it is." Atemu's eyes narrowed, suspicion colouring every syllable he uttered. "Have you two been stalking me? Trying to see how the great Game King will fail for once in his life? Well, you've succeeded, are you happy with that—?"

"Atemu." Jounouchi said loudly, his frustration getting the better of him despite Yuugi's tugs at his sleeves. Why the hell did Atemu like making assumptions so much? "We didn't come here to stalk you—"

"Then why did you lie?"

"That's exactly it! Yuugi didn't want you to misunderstand—"

"I think this scenario is pretty self-explanatory," Atemu interjected coldly, hands jammed into his pockets angrily.

"If you'd just fucking listen—"

"Jounouchi-kun!" Yuugi wailed for the first time since they bumped into Atemu. "I told you, let's go—"

"Told him what?" The once-Pharaoh asked suddenly, eyes narrowing even further. If he wasn't so angry, his squinting visage would have been a laughable subject.

"You know what, I'm getting sick of this." Jounouchi placed himself squarely between the two tri-coloured hair young men, the two at opposite ends of the emotions spectrum. "You," he jabbed at Atemu's chest, earning him a snarl, "are going to stay silent while I try to explain for the millionth time. And Yuugi," he called over his shoulder. "You're a great friend and all, but please don't refrain me from doing anything in the next five minutes, okay?

"Now listen, Mister I-like-jumping-to-conclusions. We didn't come here to stalk you. It's all your fault we ended up doing supposedly that though – uh-uh, what do I have to do, tape your mouth shut and tie you up to listen? Honestly, Atemu, with that attitude of yours I don't even know why Yuugi bothers to help you. Says you're his 'other half', but I really beg to differ right now, considering how you're treating him. All he wanted to do was return the brooch so you actually have a gift to give to the person you're meeting – and what do you know, it turns out to be Anzu." He spat. "I don't care who you like, man – I mean, I'm happy for you that you found someone to care for and hey, Anzu's a great girl – but when the both of you kept this meeting a secret, even from your other half... Do you know how much it's hurting him? You know Yuugi would wish you all the best if that's what you want, but to see his best friend since elementary school and someone who he trusts with his whole life, together, without his conscious knowledge... You have no idea of his pain, do you? He may not be crying, but that doesn't mean he's not hurting."

"Who are you to criticize me? I was the one who was just rejected—"

"You selfish bastard!" Jounouchi was shouting by now. A few people started to circle the trio. "You didn't even get the chance to confess, did you? What kind of rejection is that?! You're just making up excuses now to pin the blame on someone else; and would you look at that, Yuugi happens to be your most convenient target. Why don't you think of others before your own needs, Atemu? Is it that hard?"

He huffed at the blow to his ego, face flushed with anger and his voice too, rose. "Yuugi isn't a 'target'. That's what he's for. It serves him right to meddle with things he wasn't supposed to."

"The guy says it like it's not his problem." Jounouchi appealed to the sky with his hands in limited patience. "You were the one who asked for his help. You were the one who used him as your practice dummy. You needed his help. Have you ever stopped to consider his feelings?" He took a step closer to the shaking teen with each sentence. "Wake up, Atemu," he hissed.

Atemu took a step back, but Jounouchi kept the distance constant.

"Is it?" Jounouchi referred to his earlier question. He didn't want to resort to violence if he didn't have to. Not only would he get into trouble, but Yuugi wouldn't like it either.

"Why are you the one defending anyway? Let Yuugi explain for himself," Atemu tried one last time to divert attention on to someone else. His pride wouldn't let him admit he was wrong.

Jounouchi scowled, holding his fists more tightly by his sides. The way Atemu was acting was really wearing his nerves thin. "What's the difference? We're in this together, and he would tell you the exact same thing... But if it makes you feel better for whatever reason, fine. Yuugi?"

But he was nowhere in sight.

"Yuugi?!" Jounouchi spotted a small gap in the crowd and deduced that was where his friend escaped. He turned back to Atemu, eyes blazing and not seeing the other's equally surprised look. He couldn't control himself this time.

Atemu staggered at the punch to his jaw. He held it gingerly and returned a glare of his own.

"If anything happens to Yuugi I'm holding you responsible."

And he stalked off, the crowd parting, leaving a mixed-feeling Atemu behind.

-----

He knocked on the front door, staring blankly at Sugoroku's inquiring expression upon asking him if he'd forgotten his keys, and didn't reply. He threw himself down on to his bed.

When he had first gotten a body of his own he had shared a bed with Yuugi. For whatever reason that he couldn't remember now, he had moved to the guest room, gratified for the solitude it brought. He had noticed the dim in Yuugi's eyes when he made his decision, but hadn't thought much of it. Maybe he was wrong in pushing the other away?

After all, Yuugi had been the one to reintroduce him to this world; had been the one who pleaded persistently with the Gods that he deserved a second chance; the one who remained ever-patient to teach him modern technology and didn't feel annoyed whenever he interrupted his schoolwork.

Have you ever stopped to consider his feelings? Jounouchi's voice came back to haunt him.

No, he supposed he hadn't. Upon obtaining a physically separate entity from his former host, he had begun experiencing changes he hadn't felt in 3,000 years, and his coping mechanism was rusty. The first was the need to sustain his body – breathing, drinking, eating, sleeping – none of which were required when he was still a mere spirit. The second was his body's reactions to certain stimuli; at first he was confused – as it stood, he hadn't the chance to feel for his own until now – but then he became aware of the chemical known as testosterone after Yuugi's explanation. It made perfect sense. He acted...funny whenever he hung out with Yuugi and his friends. He had presumed he'd been granted a 'normal' male teenage body and with Anzu, the only girl of the group, around, he assumed...

He rolled over to his side, looking out the window and saw a few glittering stars despite the bright city lights alongside the roads. He thought he heard the twinkle of the door opening, hushed whispers, and footsteps pausing in front of his door before retreating further down the hall.

He would have to think more on it tomorrow. The headache really wasn't helping matters.

-----

"Good morning, Sugoroku Jii-san."

"Good morning, Jounouchi. My, you're early today."

The young man on the other end of the line laughed sheepishly. "Heh, yeah, I just thought of something really urgent that I have to talk to Yuugi about."

Sugoroku chuckled. "I'm afraid I can't help you there, Jounouchi."

"Eh?"

"He's not here."

"He's not?! Is he—"

"Don't worry, Jounouchi, he's fine. He came back last night at around midnight but left again this morning before I even woke up. Do you know what happened to him? He looked so worn out yesterday but he reassured me he was fine. Which I know he isn't, but he won't tell me."

Jounouchi hesitated. "I'm sorry Jii-san, but it's not my place to say anything."

"I understand... Does this have anything to do with Atemu?"

Another pause.

"I see... Well then, Yuugi should've just gone out to clear his head. He likes to go to the Pier to do his thinking if he's really confused."

"Thanks Jii-san. I'm sorry I can't give you a proper explanation—"

"It's all right, Jounouchi," he managed to get out before the line went dead. He was troubled by his grandson's behaviour, but he knew Yuugi was in good hands. The blond would bring him back safely.

A thump on the stairs made Sugoroku turn around to see a tired and dishevelled-looking Atemu. "Good morning," he greeted pleasantly, moving into the kitchen to prepare breakfast. He got a mumbled reply, but he supposed it was a pretty good achievement for someone who resembled a zombie at the moment.

"What would you like this morning, Atemu? Eggs? Sausages? Pancakes? Toast?"

"Toast will be fine, thank you," he replied hoarsely.

"You sound terrible, Atemu. Have you caught a cold?"

He shook his head.

"All right, if you're sure... I can use a hand in the Game Shop today, if you don't mind. A new shipment of cards have just come in."

"Of course, Jii-san."

-----

Jounouchi found Yuugi dangling his feet off the dock, a rather precarious position. But he knew that although his friend was sad, he was not about to commit suicide – he was above that. He flopped down beside him, also letting his lower limbs hang freely above the smooth rippling sea water. The sun was halfway up the horizon.

"Hey buddy."

"You're early, Jounouchi-kun."

"You know, that's exactly what your grandfather said to me."

"He is right; you usually don't wake up until twelve and that's only because your stomach's demanding to be fed."

He laughed, slightly relieved that Yuugi still had his odd sense of humour intact. "Yeah, well...this is different."

"Is it? How so?"

"...Seriously, how are you feeling?" Jounouchi looked up at the delay in Yuugi's response. He got a shrug.

"All right, I guess."

"No, seriously-seriously. You just kind of ran off last night and I couldn't find you anywhere, and I've been to practically all of your favourite places."

"I won't deny it didn't hurt, Jou-kun, but it's better this way, to get it out in the open. It is. I just...before I see Atemu again I need to..."

"Get rid of them?"

"Something like that."

"I know you know that's never going to happen. You guys are practically soul-mates—"

"Yes, Jounouchi-kun," Yuugi interrupted loudly. "I'm quite aware of that, thank you. If I remember correctly I used to be the one who kept reminding you of that little fact when you questioned why I help him." He smiled wryly. "It may be hard, Jou-kun, but it doesn't mean I can't try."

They lapsed into silence.

Yuugi chuckled suddenly. "Isn't this ironic?" He didn't bother looking at his friend's reaction to know he was confused. "That this place can actually help me think things through? I mean," he pointed to the structure a few feet away. "They rebuilt it, Jounouchi-kun, without pressing charges or making inquiries as to why it was damaged in the first place... I suppose Kaiba-kun helped out with that..."

Jounouchi snorted. The idea of the CEO defending them and hiding the truth of their duel sounded implausible to his ears. Wasn't Kaiba the one who had been adamant in ignoring any magic-related events?

"It's also where I stood up to Atemu."

...Ah.

"I'll bet he didn't think much of it at first, but I was slowly getting stronger at that time. I don't think the idea sat quite well with him..."

"But you know it was inevitable that you would eventually outgrow your shadow. And he should've known that one day he'll leave... Heh, your growth was both a gift and a curse at the same time."

"Yes, yes it was... and we both knew that. He just...like I told you, he's the type that likes to be the comforting one, not the one being consoled."

"Yeah, he tends to have that problem."

Yuugi laughed. "Atemu was quite persistent to be the stronger of the two of us, let me assure you of that."

Another moment of silence passed.

"So what're you going to do now?"

"Now?" He stretched his arms and rubbed his eyes. "Breakfast may be a good idea. I only grabbed a slice of bread when I came out this morning."

"Now you're speaking my language. C'mon, there's a new store a couple of blocks away that opens at eight thirty. I've always wondered why there's the occasional restaurant that open so early on the weekends...it's for you early-thinkers, huh?"

Jounouchi just received another laugh as they dusted off their pants and headed back to the streets.

-----

For the next few days, the atmosphere was tense in the Motou household. Sugoroku's suspicions were thrown in a loop; Yuugi didn't seem as depressed anymore. In fact, he got his smiling grandson back. But he wasn't stupid – he knew Yuugi was perfectly capable of hiding behind that cheerful mask, and he'd be damned if his guess that Atemu started the whole thing was wrong.

They continued sleeping in separate bedrooms; they weren't in the same room for more than two minutes; and Sugoroku's attempts to get both of them to help restock the Game Shop were thwarted by Yuugi's determination to research in the library and Atemu's aloofness.

Jounouchi proved to be a discreet and useful messenger. Although the blond still stubbornly refused to divulge any information, his behaviour told Sugoroku all he needed to know. He had to do something, and he was going to start with his grandson.

"Yuugi," he called on the morning of the twenty-ninth. "Breakfast's ready."

He received a muffled shout in response.

"I've to go out of town for the day...I'll most likely be back by tomorrow evening. Can you mind the shop with Atemu during my absence please?" He placed a plate at his grandson's usual seat, knowing he would appear in the next ten seconds. Sure enough, Yuugi bounded in, dress shirt slightly wrinkled. Sugoroku tsk-ed at him.

"But Jii-chan, I've got to finish researching for my paper—"

"One person isn't enough to take care of the shop, and besides, can't you access the journals you need via the online library? It won't be too much trouble to research beside the cash register on your laptop, would it?"

"You do it all the time," Yuugi pointed out, cutting his sausages into slices, pointedly ignoring the second comment. "I told you, Jii-chan, if it's too much you should hire someone."

Sugoroku bit his tongue to hold back a retort. This was harder than he originally thought, and he was finding it difficult to not reprimand his grandson. "It's a family business, Yuugi," he managed smoothly at last, tearing his sunnyside-up cleanly in half. The yolk leaked and pooled on the plate. Yuugi paid no attention to the obvious act of annoyance. "Of course I want you to do well in university, but it's Christmas break and you can't even do this old man a small favour?"

He watched Yuugi pause in his chewing, knowing his guilt-trip was working. He hated to use it, but desperate times called for desperate measures.

"All right, Jii-chan, I'll help out in the shop."

He sighed in relief inside. "Great! Thank you, Yuugi." He pushed his chair back and stood up. "I'll be along to get some things I need; leave the dishes, I'll wash them when I come back down."

Yuugi nodded vaguely, continuing munching on his buttered toast, and Sugoroku wasn't sure if he heard him or not. 'Either way,' he thought while going slowly up the stairs. 'The first step's done, and now it's up to them.'

-----

Atemu did not take the news as well as Sugoroku wanted when they bumped into each other outside the bathroom. He supposed he reacted quite out of character as compared to when he would jump to Yuugi's rescue without a second thought, but he was still confused and not ready to be in such close range to the cause of all these jumbled emotions.

However, no amount of excuses could budge Sugoroku's decision, and Atemu could only obey meekly.

So it was with a grumpy face when he entered the Game Shop, and the first thing he saw was Yuugi's smiling face.

He noted faintly that it had been a while since he last saw that cheerful face, but he knew better. This was Yuugi's smile-for-the-sake-of-customers smile. He might be polite, he might be pleasant, but the people never noticed how the demeanour never quite reached his eyes. 'Well of course,' he thought while shutting the door quietly behind him. 'He may love Jii-san to death, but he's got his own life to live too.' His chest area constricted lightly then, but he didn't know why. He brushed it off as his readjustment to the sudden onslaught of perfume.

Really, how could Yuugi stand this smell?

Atemu wrinkled his nose discreetly behind his hand and made his way to the counter. He received a brief smile in greeting before the younger turned back to the middle-aged woman.

"Will that be all?"

"Yes, please." She glanced at Atemu and blinked. "Oh my. Are you two twins?"

Yuugi laughed and got out a bag for the puzzles she decided to purchase. "Not quite; it's a long story. The total comes to two thousand yen, please."

She rummaged in her bag for her wallet. "Well, that certainly is a disappointment..."

"Disappointment?" Atemu echoed, curious, leaning on the counter and awfully close to brushing his arm against Yuugi's.

She seemed to not have heard him. "I've a daughter and she's absolutely crazy over all sorts of games." She informed Yuugi, handing over the money. "So naturally she's been telling me how wonderful the Game King is."

"Oh," Yuugi laughed weakly above the ding of the cash register. "That's, uh, nice."

The bell chimed and a customer walked in. Atemu slid from behind the counter and greeted the newcomer. Yuugi quickly tuned out the ex-Pharaoh's smooth voice in order to focus back on his own customer.

"Sometimes she borders on being overly obsessive. You should see her room; she's got posters covering each and every inch of the wall. I don't know what she'll do when she meets him in person... Thank you, dear," she put the change away.

"It's nothing." Yuugi handed the bag to her.

She pulled out her glasses from its case and put them on. "Thank yo—oh!" Yuugi mentally cringed, knowing what was coming next. '"You're Motou Yuugi!"' His mind mimicked in a high-pitched voice, in complete sync to real time. He forced out another smile; he really didn't want all the fame and attention. But honestly, he was surprised that the woman hadn't recognized him – them – from the hairstyle. Even without her glasses – how bad were her eyes, really? – one would think she could see a semblance to a starfish, or whatever shape people described his hairstyle as.

"That's me, yes," he treaded cautiously.

"Yuugi-kun, you must simply come with me for tea this afternoon!" She gushed.

"Uh—"

"My daughter would be so delighted to meet you!"

"I'm sorry—"

"I'm going to call her now."

"M'am," he tried again, louder, and her hand stilled in her bag. "I really appreciate your offer, but I'm afraid I can't do that. I have to watch the shop."

"Your brother can do that by himself," she waved her hand dismissively, fingers once again in position on the number pad.

"He's not my brother," Yuugi repeated, a bit of patience seeping away. He looked over to Atemu, where he was currently getting a box from the top shelf. Why couldn't the woman just leave already?!

"Perhaps another time," the words slipped out before he could comprehend what he had just agreed to. He clamped his mouth shut tightly in a grimace, drawing in a long breath through his nose, and out of the corner of his eye he thought he saw Atemu stiffen. Or maybe he was just being hopeful again. 'C'mon Yuugi, get a grip.'

"Great!" She clapped her hands together, bag and purse hitting her hips, but she paid no attention. "We'll meet you at Gompachi at six!"

"The shop doesn't close until seven—"

"Seven it is then!" She cried happily. "See you later, Yuugi-kun!"

His jaw dropped and for a minute all he could do was blink at the door. That...certainly was awkward. He pinched himself and winced, scowling. Why couldn't this just have been a stupid dream?

-----

"Atemu, I have to go now," Yuugi hurriedly slipped on his shoes.

The addressed looked up and his jaw felt slack. Even though Yuugi wasn't wearing anything fancy, he had managed to pull off a mature look with his white dress shirt and jeans. He noticed the armbands and neck collar were left behind, but around his neck was a simple, silver necklace. He narrowed his eyes. 'When did Yuugi get one of those?'

Yuugi was speaking again, threading his arms into the coat's sleeves. "...no idea how long this will take, so don't wait up." He reached over the counter and pulled Atemu's head closer to him, arms around his neck. The coat's material felt cool and smooth against his cheeks...or was that Yuugi's skin? "Thanks for watching the Shop, Atemu. I'll bring back something for you!"

He blinked as the pressure lifted and the door swung shut, leaving him alone with several cards spread about him.

Oddly enough, he missed the comfortable weight on his shoulders.

He frowned at nothing in particular. Gripping the glass counter by the edges he took a moment to rein his emotions under control. What was going on? He had been fine the last three days, albeit distracted in his thoughts, so why was he affected now?

Glancing at the clock he made the critical decision of closing the shop. Business would be slow during this hour, since it was an appropriate time for supper. He wouldn't miss much. He flipped the sign to Closed, turned off the lights, and locked up. He grabbed his jacket and keys on his way through the front door.

Although he didn't think about his destination, his feet led him to the last place (really now?, a snide voice in his head sniggered) he wanted to be at the moment.

Gompachi. This was where Yuugi was having dinner with that – with that –

He couldn't finish the thought.

He turned on his heels, angry at Yuugi, angry at the world, and angry at himself. He marched stiffly away, making his way to – somewhere, anywhere – just not here.

-----

Atemu walked carefully around the warehouses, alert for the slightest sign of danger. He couldn't help it; paranoia had helped sharpen his already keen senses, but sometimes he would like to be fully relaxed. He vaguely recalled the morning news as he munched breakfast; something about a murderer still on the loose.

Finally emerging from their shadows, he dropped his hunched posture and went back to his usual stance: head held high with just a hint of arrogance surrounding him. Again, it wasn't something he could help. He was raised to be independent, to be a stronger leader for his people. If he had shown weakness, what would the people think? What would they do? More importantly, would Egypt have fallen?

He shook his head and stared out at the calm waters. He appreciated having his memories back, but right now he was in mood to ponder the what-ifs of three millennia ago.

Atemu liked this place. People wouldn't have known; he made sure his 'thinking trips' were kept secret, from Sugoroku, even from Yuugi, his aib—

He stopped. Blinked. Confusion tickled his insides.

The last time he had addressed Yuugi as such was right after the Ceremonial Duel was over, telling him he was Motou Yuugi and no one else. Then he got a real body. He had things he could properly call 'his own'. He was separate, not tied to the Millennium items anymore. He was his own being. Gone was the mind link with Yuugi, and along went their closeness as days progressed.

He silently cursed himself. How could he have been so stupid? Why didn't he see it earlier? He should've noticed all the signs: the hugs, the pats, the brushing of bangs, the advices on dress... And he had returned the affectionate gestures in kind, never realizing that there would be any other possible interpretations of his actions.

Have you ever stopped to consider his feelings? Jounouchi's question popped up once more.

Again his answer was 'no'. It was a hesitant 'no', because he could see the rift between the two of them now – and the whole problem was really his fault. He understood. He was going to change some things if it was within his power to do so.

The only thing was, could he still stand a chance now that a girl has entered the picture?

His heart clenched again, but he couldn't use the perfume excuse. Not that he wanted to.

-----

Two days later and the morning after Sugoroku's return, things still had not improved.

'At least it hasn't gotten worse," the elder reassured himself, sweeping the front of the store.

Today was the thirty-first. He supposed he should open until three. That would be enough time for people to buy last-minute presents for any parties held tonight or tomorrow.

Speaking of which...

He went back inside, flipped the sign to Open, and continued to plan the evening out while preparing breakfast. He could leave the two of them alone in the house, or he could send them away to a restaurant...together. Both ways would end up letting the two of them spending more lost quality time. He may be old, but he wasn't blind.

Yet on the other hand, he didn't want to upset his grandson even more...

"Jii-chan!" The door separating the House and the Shop flung open. "Guess what? Kaiba-kun's holding a party at his house and he invited all of us!"

Sugoroku raised an eyebrow. "Kaiba?" This was a surprising turn of events.

"Well, Mokuba wheedled him into it." Yuugi amended, stopping his bouncing. "It starts at six-thirty tonight."

He saw no harm in letting them go. In fact... "Did you get something for them? It is impolite to go to another's house empty-handed if they're offering hospitality."

Yuugi rolled his eyes. "I know, Jii-chan, you've told me that for only about a hundred times. But what can I possibly get them? Kaiba-kun has just about everything."

"Something from the heart?" Sugoroku suggested.

The young one gave an uncharacteristic snort. "You lost me, Jii-chan."

"Perhaps...personal items?"

"Jii-chan!"

"I meant clothing! Something other than his ridiculously long trench coat. Doesn't that boy wear anything else?"

Yuugi could think of a few things that were none too appropriate for the discussion, so he opted to shrug. "Beats me. Kaiba-kun spends a lot of time in the office, so I suppose he needs to keep up his intimidating reputation." He caught his grandfather's reproving look. "What? It's true and deep down I know you agree with me!"

Sugoroku shook his head, half in amusement and half in annoyance. "Just make sure you end up getting something. Now eat, breakfast's not going to get any warmer if you just leave it there."

"Yes Jii-chan," he chirped and saluted (to which Sugoroku rolled his eyes, smiling), settling in his seat and immediately set out to tear apart the bacon.

"So what've you been doing while I was away?" Sugoroku asked casually, bustling around the stove and resolutely keeping his back to Yuugi.

"We wored th'hop."

"Don't talk with your mouth full," he reprimanded gently, scooping eggs onto a plate.

Yuugi swallowed. "Sorry. There was this really...strange woman who came in the afternoon you left. I really don't want to be known as the King of Games, Jii-chan...that should be Atemu's title!"

Said person chose that exact moment to walk in, in his pyjamas.

"Good morning," Sugoroku filled in the pregnant pause smoothly. "Toast?"

"Yes please," Atemu croaked, shuffling to a seat two places away from Yuugi. He sneaked a glance at the other and noted in slight disappointment that Yuugi was focused on his food. Did he...manage to somehow screw up again? But Yuugi was all-smiles for the past two days – granted, the majority of the time was spent in the Shop...

"I'm done, Jii-chan, I'd better get going now before I run out of time."

Sugoroku nodded absently, handing the butter to Atemu. Then he actually processed the statement and reacted. "Hang on a second, Yuugi, Atemu's coming with you."

"He is?"

"I am?"

"Of course he is. He's invited too, isn't he? So having two heads is better than one. Now get going, I don't want to hear any complaints."

"But Jii-chan—"

"I haven't eaten yet—"

"No buts, and I'm sure you won't starve, Atemu. You have eight hours left." He watched them struggle with their coats and boots. When they were safely down the street and he lost sight of them in the lightly falling snow, Sugoroku reached for the phone. "Hello? Yes, yes, I have a favour to ask..."

-----

"Well? What do you think?"

"Hmm, it doesn't give me the Kaiba-vibe..."

"How about this one then?"

"Nope, not really either."

"Why is it so hard to find a gift for Kaiba-kun? This is the twenty-sixth store we've been in and nothing fits the bill. C'mon, Kaiba-present, show yourself, I'm getting kind of annoyed of this hide-and-seek game..."

Atemu privately agreed. They've tried the music stores, the candy stores (where Mokuba's share of this 'thank-you' gift was bought; really, he was so much easier to shop for), the electronics stores, the bookstores...but they still couldn't find that one thing that shouted Kaiba. Atemu pondered over a prank – buying an ancient Egyptian High Priest outfit would certainly irritate Kaiba and that would always be an amusing thing to see – but that would have to be their last choice. Yet, at the rate this was progressing (which was taking way too long), Atemu was sorely tempted to broach the idea to Yuugi.

"If this keeps up I'll actually have to take Jii-chan's advice and get Kaiba-kun clothing," Yuugi's grumble broke Atemu out of his thoughts. "How tall is Kaiba-kun anyway?"

"Taller than the both of us?"

"Ha, ha, as if I don't know that," Yuugi rounded a corner. Atemu followed, starting to feel tired after three hours of shopping and carrying a giant stuffed bear that held chocolates in its paws. "It's so much easier to shop for either of us..."

Atemu couldn't find the right comment to that. He was acutely aware that they were back at the store where he got his matching black outfit and cream woollen vest, with Yuugi's help. And the events that followed... Yuugi didn't seem to be too bothered though. Atemu hoped it was because he was too engrossed in finding the right gift that he didn't notice his surroundings, not because he was being stubborn and bottling up his true emotions. He knew – somehow, almost like an intuition but not quite – that Yuugi's feelings weren't entirely platonic towards him. And he'd been a fool, a blind fool...

They did say people in love tend to be blind to all else.

Wait—

He didn't just think that, did he?

"What about this?"

The item Yuugi was holding was a long scarf. Blocks of varying shades of blue alternated and the ends were neatly trimmed, leaving invisible frays. It was thick but the material was not rough; it felt somewhat similar to the vest he had bought quite recently.

"Hmm..."

"It'll bring out Kaiba-kun's eyes, I think. Of course there are more colours...but white is too plain and red or orange just don't seem like his colours... Atemu?"

He jolted. He'd forgotten that when Yuugi started on one of his fashion comparisons, he'd tend to zone out – because quite frankly, he only cared about leather and everything else in the store might as well have been insignificant servants back in his palace. It was a habit he was trying to break. He simply nodded.

"Good," Yuugi smiled in relief. He made his way to the cashier queue, waiting patiently for the numerous customers in front of him. Atemu opted to loiter in the background, picking mindlessly at suits and blazers. His thoughts wandered in all kinds of direction, and before long he zoned out once again.

"Well thank goodness that's gotten out of the way." Yuugi's voice interrupted his self-induced trance. Startled, Atemu stole a quick glance at his watch. Yuugi caught his wrist and looked at the watch's hands. "And we still have – oh good, enough time. Ice cream, Atemu?" Without waiting for a response he grabbed his purchase and headed out the wide open double doors, completely missing the look on Atemu's face: one of stricken fascination, at the prospect of vanilla and chocolate cones. Goodness knew what sugar would do.

-----

"Coming!"

Thud.

"I'm okay!"

The door flung open to reveal a giggling Mokuba, to which Yuugi raised an eyebrow and Atemu buried his face into the stuffed bear he got the honour to carry.

"Hello...Mokuba..." Yuugi greeted cautiously. He wondered if giving him more chocolates would be a suicidal move.

"Come on in, come on in! Nii-sama's in there sulking because you-know-who isn't here yet." It seemed like that devious grin made permanent dimple indentations on the younger Kaiba's cheeks. They looked rather painful.

"Er, all right then," they crossed the threshold and took off their boots, socks dangling halfway. "Oh, this is for you, Mokuba. Where's Kaiba-kun sulking?"

The raven-hair boy took the bear, bubbling with happiness. "Thank you, Yuugi, Atemu! Nii-sama's in his study; I tried getting him out but he won't until you-know-who's here." Again, Mokuba giggled a little too enthusiastically while the two tri-coloured hair teens still hadn't the slightest clue who this you-know-who person could be. Were they supposed to know, or had Mokuba expected them to catch on already? As far as they knew, Kaiba Seto wasn't the type to flaunt affections for people other than this little brother.

"That's, uh, nice, Mokuba. Um, we'll just leave his present on the coffee table in..."

Ding dong.

"I got it!" Mokuba cried, delight in every skip he took. "Jounouchi! You're here!!"

Atemu shook his head and Yuugi echoed, both in amusement. Really, how much sugar did that kid have already?

They sat on the couch with a slight gap in between. The awkward silence was thankfully broken by the entrance of Jounouchi, who had a Mokuba clinging to his middle chattering all the while, trailed by Ryou, Bakura, Honda, and Otogi.

"I tried inviting Rebecca and Leon and Isis and Mai," the rest of them assumed that would bring another handful of people with them, "but they're busy with stuff in America and in Egypt. You guys are lucky we came back to Japan this year to celebrate." He peered up at Jounouchi, who was busy examining the candy bowl and not trying very hard to pay attention to what Yuugi was saying, and grinned.

Atemu arched an eyebrow. 'Oh, so that's what this is all about.'

"I'm going to go get nii-sama. Make yourselves at home, the food's all ready in the kitchen; just don't eat—"

"Great! Food!" Jounouchi and Honda jumped to their feet and followed the direction their noses led them.

The others got up with more grace, making their way slowly in favour of talking at the same time. Otogi and Yuugi walked a little ahead of the other three, deep in conversation about the latest improvements to the Dungeon Dice Monsters game. Ever since Pegasus signed that contract with Otogi, business had been blooming faster than ever. Of course, it helped that the creator was so good-looking.

The kitchen seemed to have divided itself in half. One part was dedicated the Western delicacies, the other following Japanese traditions. Platters and bowls and pitchers filled any possible space on top of tables and countertops. Yuugi made a beeline for the soba, leaving Otogi with Jounouchi and Honda, who were garbling over who got which plate first.

"So when did you, Tomb Robber of all people, get together with sweet little Ryou?"

"I hardly think that's your business, Pharaoh," Bakura drawled, flashing sharp canines at him in victory.

"Yeah, you're right. I wouldn't want to know anyway."

"Loosen up, Pharaoh, or you'll never get that runt of yours."

Atemu choked. "Excuse me?"

"You hear things around here, and you piece them together," he nodded at Ryou, who was choosing between smoked salmon slices and salad. "Oi, Ryou, no fish!" He made his way towards the other white-haired teen and snatched the plate away, unhearing of soft protests. "Stop eating sissy food and get the good stuff, sheesh."

Apparently, that meant a thick slice of medium roast beef drowned in brown, creamy gravy.

-----

"So..."

Yuugi turned at the hesitant voice, a sausage halfway into his mouth and his front teeth just barely grazing the surface. He swallowed, saliva feeling sticky in his throat, and lowered the fork that held the piece in place. "Hey."

"Want to sit down somewhere away from all this noise?"

He inclined his head in acquiescence towards the door leading out of the adjoined dining room and kitchen. They put down their plates and only brought their goblets with them, settling by the glass sliding doors separating them from the backyard. Conveniently, a coffee table provided the structure they needed to rest their glasses.

The moon was slightly hidden behind thin, wispy clouds that seemed voluminous only by their density. There were sporadic snowflakes drifting down, clinging to the windows of buildings and disappearing as their prolonged presence became undesired against the heat radiating off these buildings. Condensation built up around the edges of these windows, and Yuugi breathed at the glass, idly fingering a happy face on the moisturized surface. There was an air of childish innocence, the way he did it.

"I want to apologize for the other night," Atemu began, ignoring the stall in Yuugi's actions as he averted his gaze to outside. "I shouldn't have...yelled at you and Jounouchi-kun like that, and I should have listened to you explain before exploding like that... I'm sorry for not trusting you, even when I know you would only have my best interests at heart."

Yuugi smiled at his fading drawing, almost sadly. "Forgiven, Atemu, a long time ago." He wondered why it was brought up now, of all times. It wasn't like he didn't have time to bring around the subject in the past few days.

Another silence blanketed them, broken by Mokuba's ecstatic shrieks and several cheers. Something big must be happening, but neither of them found the will to move.

"This might come off as sounding insincere and arrogant, but...I expected that from you, Yuugi."

"I know that as well, so we're even."

There was no disgust. Just an oddly calm tone.

"I might be asking too much, but can we go back to the way we were before this whole mess took place? I...miss you, aibou." Yuugi stiffened, and Atemu immediately took this as a negative. "I'm not forcing you to make a decision right now, all I'm asking is a chance to be able to talk to you again like we used to. When you guided me and showed me the world I had to brave... Just your presence and patience...Yuugi." He ended in a whisper.

"Atemu...did you know that all you had to do was knock and I would've let you in? Such an explicit request of permission is not necessary at all...mou hitori no boku."

His eyes widened, surprised that Yuugi had so readily agreed – accepted – or whatever his response qualified as – and he had, he had – oh goodness, he'd only realized now how much he missed hearing that endearment. On impulse he fell forward and brought his arms around Yuugi's neck, thankful tears dammed behind his clenched-shut eyelids. He felt hands rest on his hip, patting him softly as he tried to get his emotions under control.

"Yuugi...aibou...how can you...why..." he babbled.

"Your happiness is my happiness," Yuugi replied, eyes not as wet but there was a definite added shimmering effect. And there was no prettier sight than that.

-----

Mokuba peeked around the corner and saw the two of them still huddled like that. He glanced at the object above them, and frowned as they obviously haven't noticed it. Yet he liked this turn of events. He dialled a number on the handy cordless phone. "Hello? Yeah, it's me. The plan didn't work out as well as you thought it would—" A devastated wail reached his ear. "But it's okay! They worked things out on their own." A pause. "What was that? You want a picture? Oh trust me, I do too, except I don't think they'd appreciate...what? Oh. Oh. Okay, gotcha. Uh-huh, yes...with any luck...yes." He glanced at the clock. "There's still time, I'll get right on it!"

- Owari -

Authoress Notes: To my knowledge, most Japanese restaurants usually don't open until 11:00AM and their malls open at 10:00AM, so I took a lot of liberty in saying there's a restaurant-type place that opens at 8:30AM.

On New Year's Eve, the Japanese eat toshikoshi soba – buckwheat noodles – for longevity. My Yuugi (the possessive term's applied loosely, because Yami would be hunting me down in a few seconds otherwise) is a traditionalist, whatnot being brought up with Sugoroku, who, despite his adventurous streaks (entailing a lot of danger), I think will follow traditions.

I know that the ending is a little rushed and corny and all things horrid. I wanted to add more Japanese touches to it but had I done so it would be all weird. So. You get Mokuba's ambiguous plan over the phone.