Theme: 79 – surprise
Notes: Context/relevant tumblr post: my username at tumblr (slash) post (slash) 142844132288
Atem spent most of his day watching the event from the second-story window above the Kame Game Shop and – though he'd hand over the God Cards to Kaiba before admitting it to anybody – fuming. Kaiba himself was long gone with his security team, sped off in a limousine, but Isono, Mokuba, a handful of assistants, and several dozen customers were still milling outside past store hours, wrapping up tabletop duels and mulling over last-minute purchases.
"There you are," Yuugi said from behind him in the doorway. "You didn't come down to – what's wrong?"
"Nothing," Atem said. His eyes were still fixed on the figures lingering around the shop entrance. Below, Mokuba was demonstrating a beta of KaibaCorp's latest patent, a sort of holographic eyewear that had had several people gasping and awing over throughout the day.
"Okay, well, I think we both know that was far too quick to be sincere." Yuugi joined him on the window seat, legs tucked in against the cushions. Squashed together, knees and ankles bumping, Atem was oddly charmed, just briefly, by the thought that their small statures fit neatly together, here upon the window seat. "Anyway, I've been trying to find you since lunch. Saved you something."
It was hard to stay irritable when Yuugi was too good at being himself. "Oh?"
"Or Kaiba did, anyway." Yuugi pulled out a hand-sized styrofoam box from his bag, which he opened to reveal –
"I think he brought it here as a peace treaty, y'know," he said as Atem, wide-eyed, leaned forward to inspect the figurine. A glass model of the Dark Magician's newest design, dressed in a flowing navy cloak with pale silver trimmings that shone in the sunset light from the window. At Yuugi's encouraging nod, he lifted it carefully. Was that… real sapphire? "Apparently they've got tons of these at KaibaCorp from Industrial Illusions's latest marketing campaigns. Honestly, I think it was Mokuba's idea to give it to you, not Seto's. I get the sense he's just as tired of this whole thing as I am – "
Yuugi leveled him a fondly amused look. "My Wiki page – really?"
"How do you assume that was me?"
"How could it not be you?"
"Perhaps it was Rebecca," Atem suggested innocently, turning back to inspect the model with exaggerated interest. "She's a big fan of yours. Doesn't she have an eidetic memory?"
"I don't think Rebecca could've reported all of the cards I held for the match we dueled against her, herself."
Electing to ignore that, Atem found himself observing the figurine again, turning it gently to inspect the back, watching the way the light caught in the glass staff, the way the tiny eyes shone. "Marvelous," he muttered, and nearly without thinking, he added, "Mahaad would be honored."
"I'm glad you like it." He paused. "Kaiba, er, wanted you to come out and get it yourself. I think he figured it'd be bait, y'know, to have three of the world's best duelists signing autographs, working the register, all that. But we had more than enough customers, y'know? it didn't seem fair to do that to you, just as like a marketing ploy." Yuugi lowered his head and smiled just a bit – he somehow managed to look both bashful and sly at once. "I dueled him for it."
It wasn't possible, Atem thought, to count each one of the ways that his partner could make his heart warm. "Naturally," he replied, and Yuugi's returning smile banished any remaining thoughts of planning a counter response to Kaiba's move today.
"I have something for you as well," Atem said finally, and looked up at Yuugi squarely for the first time since he'd stepped out this morning to collect the package at the front door. He realized with a jolt just how exhausted his partner looked, after an entire morning and afternoon of fans, customers, the press, spontaneous duels, Kaiba in a limousine, arriving unannounced – perhaps now would be a good time, the right time. Yes.
"The – Ishtars sent it." He placed the figurine on the sill, where it shone orange-blue against the sunset, and leaned down to slowly lift up the packaging box he had leaned against the window seat that morning, after he'd returned upstairs to find Yuugi gone, ambushed in the shop below with his grandfather by fans and reporters alike. He unwrapped it slowly, taking care to treat the FRAGILE warning written across the box seriously. "I thought we might…"
There were a dozen ways to finish that sentence, none of which felt right, but his partner didn't seem to mind; when he eased open the box top to reveal an elegant dark board and a dozen playing pieces, Yuugi gasped.
"This is – "
"A senet board!" Yuugi's eyes were wider than he'd ever seen them, looking for all the world as though Atem had just presented him with the pschent of his kingdom. "It's – is this an original? It's not a modern remake?"
"It's mine," Atem said quietly. "Or was, I suppose. It's yours, if you like."
Perhaps this was too much.
"Your birthday," he continued, "is next week. I wasn't sure, exactly…" He coughed, more to stabilize himself than anything. "Ishizu has taken care of several items that came into her possession as Antiquities Director after the Tomb Keeper clan dissolved. Several of them were pharaonic items, passed down the Ishtar line for safekeeping. Of everyone I know, partner – " He stopped. That wasn't right. "You would… value its real worth."
Yuugi made a sudden motion, as though to grab his hand, but seemed to think better of it with the senet board in the way. He folded back into himself, eyes never once leaving the board. It was Atem's own childhood set, ancient and worn though it was, but after months of private fretting, it was the only thing he could think to offer.
"I'm. This is…" Yuugi's jaw seemed to be struggling for motion. "This is. I'm. I can't – "
Something within felt lodged in his throat, in his stomach, his heart, until –
"I can't… take this from you, not for myself." Yuugi did reach across for his hand now, less of an impulsive motion, more… comforting. Natural. "But we've shared everything else so far… if that works for you."
It worked for him. His heart alight again, it worked for anything that truly mattered in this new life, and damn the rest.
Yuugi looked him in the eyes now; his own were very bright. "Thank you."
Atem smiled. He refused to underestimate this opponent, however new to the game he may be. "Do you know how to play?"
"Heh. Yeah, actually," Yuugi said, then immediately shook his head. "I mean – well sort of, I looked it up 'cause I was curious. But it's hard, historians aren't really sure – you do know that you guys never wrote down all the rules?"
Well. "Fortunately, you have a master sitting across from you." Atem's fingers began sorting the pieces, moving in familiar steps. It was a pattern he hadn't performed in three millennia, yet remembered now as clearly as his name before him, like everything else. "Would you like to start?"