Warnings and Notes: This story is a male/male romance (Yami/Yugi). There will be fluff, there will be angst, there will be comedic misunderstandings and complications galore.
For those who've been keeping up with fic snippets on my LiveJournal, this is the story formerly known as "the handyman fic". And, yes, I know the title is cheesy. It's supposed to be. :)
Special thanks to my lovely pre-reader, Tex-chan, and to my hard-working beta readers: DragonDancer5150 and Kitt Chaos. All remaining errors and eccentricities are my own. (Unless Ffnet has done something headache-inducing again, like eat all my scene breaks or delete random words. For that, I take no responsibility.)
Disclaimer: Yu-Gi-Oh! is the creation of Kazuki Takahashi. This alternate universe version is mine. (Unlike "Shadows on the Nile", this story is NOT a Harlequin romance novel fusion, though it may read like one. ;P)
A novel by Lucidscreamer
Yugi plopped down on the stool behind the game shop's wobbly sales counter, folded his arms on the countertop, and all but collapsed forward to rest his head on the pillow of his forearms. He let out an exhausted groan.
When his grandpa had bought this small shopping center in a newly renovated area on Domino City's waterfront, it had seemed like a terrific business opportunity. And so it had proven for the first six months. Then Solomon Mutou had taken a bad fall from a stepladder while attempting building repairs and ended up in traction.
With his grandpa out of commission until he recovered from his injuries, Yugi had dropped everything and taken over not only running the new game shop, but also managing the shopping center. At first, he had tried to keep up his evening classes at the local college, but meeting the demands of the center's other tenants was a full-time job in its own right. There were not enough hours in the day for him to work in the shop, take care of the Mutou Millennium Shopping Center, go to school, and still find time for luxuries like eating and sleeping. His mother had her hands full running the original game shop and taking care of Solomon, and his father was always away on business, so Yugi felt he had no choice but to put his classes on hold and take care of the new business until his grandpa was back on his feet.
As Yugi had discovered, however, even without his classes, there was still too much for one person to handle. So, with reluctance and a feeling of trepidation - after all, he had never been a boss before - he put a 'help wanted' sign in the front window. At the moment, he was too tired even to worry whether anyone would respond. All he wanted was to close the shop and sleep for a week.
The bell on the door jangled. Yugi groaned into his forearms and briefly considered sliding down out of sight behind the counter. If he pretended not to be here, would they just go away? Not that he could afford to turn away a customer… or a potential employee, for that matter. He groaned again. Life was so unfair.
Unable to convince his weary body to raise its head, he listened to the tap-tap-tap of stiletto heels stalking toward him across the shop's tile floor.
"Jeez, Yugi," drawled a sultry feminine voice. "You look like forty miles of bad road."
Yugi managed to turn his head far enough to meet the concerned eyes of the blonde woman leaning over the counter to peer down at him with a frown marring her pretty features. "Hi, Mai."
"Hi, hon. Rough day?"
"Rough week." He levered himself upright with visible and noisy effort, then offered Mai a wan smile. "That's a new look for you, isn't it?"
Mai Valentine was dressed to the nines in a fitted lavender jacket and matching pencil skirt. A silk shell the color of fresh milk peeped out from the open lapels of the short jacket. Her long blonde hair was swept up in a fancy twist Yugi didn't know the name for and secured with a gold clip. Her make-up was subtle, enhancing the vivid color of today's contact lenses, which were a soft violet. She cocked a sly smile at him. "Like it?"
"You look great," he said. Mai always looked beautiful. But the outfit was unlike her usual style, which tended toward tight bustiers and leg-revealing mini-skirts. "But what's the occasion?"
"I had a job interview at Kaiba Corp this morning." She laughed at his surprise. "A girl can't trade on her looks forever, you know. I'm not just a pretty face - I have an associate's degree in office administration. It's about time I got some use out of it."
Yugi blinked at her. That she had a degree didn't surprise him, but the location of her prospective employment did. "But… Kaiba Corp?"
"Oh, yeah." She buffed her French manicure on her lapel. "Kaiba's looking for a new executive assistant."
"You want to work for Seto Kaiba?"
"He's just a man, hon." She rolled her eyes at his expression. "Okay, he's a very rich man. That just means he can afford to pay me lots of money."
Yugi, who had briefly shared a classroom with Kaiba in high school, shook his head. He didn't think there was a salary large enough to entice him to work for the guy. "Well, if you're sure that's what you want…."
"What I want is a villa in the south of France, a silver Porsche Boxster, and a 401k to die for. If it takes putting up with Mr. Moneybags to get it-" She shrugged. "It can't be worse than starving myself to look good on the runway." She nudged him with a perfectly painted fingernail. "You do what you gotta do, right, Yugi?"
Well, he certainly knew what she meant by that. He glanced around the shop; he was just doing what he had to do, too. He grinned at her. "Yep. So, what can I do for you, today?"
"Put in a good word for me with Vivian? She says the salon is booked solid for the next two weeks, but I have a follow-up interview with Seto Kaiba himself on Friday, and I have to look my absolute best."
Yugi blinked at her. "You want me to convince Viv to give you an appointment? How am I supposed to do that?"
"Come on, Yugi. No one can resist those big baby-blues of yours. Just give her the puppy eyes and she'll cave." She patted his cheek. "Pretty please?"
"Great! I'll call you later." She sailed toward the front of the shop, arriving at the door just as it opened. "I'm counting on you, Yugi. Don't let me down."
"'Bye! See you tomorrow!"
Sighing, Yugi sank back down onto his seat and slumped onto the counter again. How on earth was he supposed to convince Vivian to give Mai a special appointment if the salon really was completely booked? He stared at the Africa-shaped water stain on the wall beside him and pondered the problem. Maybe if he moved the salon ahead on the maintenance schedule? Viv had been complaining that one of her shampoo sinks had stopped up again…
The deep, masculine voice startled Yugi out of his musings. He jumped - then stared at the man standing before the sales counter, a faint smile on his handsome face.
Guh. Yugi clamped his jaw shut before the sound could escape. Much.
The stranger was gorgeous. Of average height, he still towered over Yugi, who barely reached five foot nothing if he wore thick-soled shoes and thought tall thoughts. His unruly hair was thick and dark, and the edges caught the light to gleam with auburn fire. Bronzed skin, dark eyes that seemed to hold secret depths, and a smile that dazzled Yugi's already stunned senses completed the picture.
Yugi sat up straight and tried to sound as if he weren't on the verge of drooling. "Um. Hi. May I help you?"
"I'm here about the job."
The collar of the stranger's cotton shirt was unbuttoned; it gaped open to reveal a tantalizing glimpse of tanned skin over lean, sculpted muscle. The effort it took for Yugi to focus on the conversation - rather than the vivid fantasy of running his hands over that smooth skin that was suddenly playing in his mental theater - would have been embarrassing if enough of his brain cells had been paying sufficient attention to trigger his blush reflex. And if all the blood in his body hadn't already decided to head a lot farther south than his face. Instead, he managed to drag his gaze away from the fantasy - and the chest that had triggered it - and met the serious brown eyes of his visitor.
"The sign in the window? 'Help wanted'?" The man frowned. Somehow, on him it looked good. "You haven't already found someone to fill the position, have you?"
"What? Oh. No! No, no, no…" Yugi realized he was babbling and forced himself to stop. He blinked at his visitor. Why would a guy who looked like a male model want to work at the game shop? "You're interested in the job?"
"Yes. Is something wrong?" The stranger leaned on the sales counter, which wobbled as it shifted under the additional weight. He frowned at it.
"No, nothing's wrong. But…" Yugi gestured helplessly. "It's just that the job is mostly handyman stuff, here and for the rest of the shops in the building, and-"
"Like fixing this counter?" It rocked when the stranger gave it an experimental shove. He met Yugi's gaze and grinned. "I can do that."
"Yeah?" Yugi eyed him skeptically. The stranger didn't look like a potential handyman. He looked like a desert prince who had misplaced his royal robes. Yugi moistened his lips, buying himself a moment to consider. "You have experience?"
"I have all kinds of experience." The man winked.
Heat flooded Yugi's cheeks. Was this guy flirting with him? Not that Yugi objected. But, in his experience, gorgeous guys who looked like they should be gracing a magazine cover rarely went for the short, somewhat geeky type. Did the guy need the job that badly? Oh, well. Whatever the reason for it, Yugi decided to enjoy it while it lasted. He smiled and stuck out his hand. "I'm Yugi Mutou."
Yugi had no time to ponder the significance of the hesitation, or the quick way Yami's gaze had seemed to flicker over him during it, because Yami's warm palm was pressing against his and Yugi's knees had gone a bit weak. He was suddenly glad he was sitting down.
"I'm new in town," Yami said, retrieving his hand - much to Yugi's disappointment. "I'm afraid I have no local references to give you, although I can offer plenty from my hometown, if you like."
"Where are you from?"
Yugi blinked. "Egypt? As in Egypt Egypt? With, like, pyramids and pharaohs and stuff?"
Yami chuckled. "Yes, that Egypt."
"But… Isn't the name 'Yami' Japanese?"
"And isn't 'Green' an English name?"
"But you're Egyptian?"
Yami's smile widened into a grin. "Yes."
Dazzled by the flash of even white teeth against golden skin, Yugi found it hard to care about the discrepancy. He shook his head to clear it, found it didn't work - and gave up. He would worry about it sometime when Yami wasn't smiling at him.
"Okay," he said weakly, and smoothed a nervous hand over his dark green t-shirt. "If you want the job, it's yours."
If Yami kept smiling at him like that, Yugi was going to dissolve into a puddle of goo. It would be a happy puddle of goo, but a puddle of goo nonetheless, and gooey puddles were not known for their ability to run shopping centers. Yugi shook himself again. "Okay. Can you start tomorrow morning?"
"Of course. Shall I bring my own tools?"
"There's a fully-stocked toolbox in the storage room."
"Very well. What time should I be here?"
"Does eight o'clock sound okay? We open at nine, so that would give us time to go over your duties and take care of the paperwork."
"I will be here at eight, then." With a final smile - each one was like a shot of sunlight injected directly into Yugi's brain. Guh. - Yami made his way back to the front of the store. He paused in the open doorway, the sun outlining him in gold like a gilded statue of some ancient king. "Thank you for hiring me, Mr. Mutou. You won't regret it."
Without waiting for a response, he vanished into the light.
Yugi collapsed back onto the wobbly counter, where he was in danger of drowning in his own drool. He groaned. The fleeting thought crossed his mind that 'regret' was going to be the least of his worries.