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Chapter 22: Taking the Plunge

Drea was swimming inside himself, the pain had reached an all-time high and he knew he was almost there. His soul was giving up on returning to his body on the mortal coil. His body, presuming one of his current reincarnation's family had found it, may spend decades in a coma waiting for his soul to return to it. He might be free of the reincarnation cycle for years if he could hold out a little longer.

If he slipped out of Zorc's little dimensional hot pocket of a black spot however Ammit would have a few choice words for him. A Sequester avoiding his duty? Trying to break his cycle? He could be imprisoned for a term in Limbo like the secret breakers he forced into their next reincarnations. A guard amongst the prisoners would not be pleasant. Drea would be shamed.

He lay sprawled still on his stomach. He was vaguely aware that he wanted to roll onto his back but hardly had the strength to force himself and with his face locked under a thick sheen of sweaty, tangled, hair he was too hot in the little nest Zorc had built for him. How did anyone have the power to do this? To hide from Gods? If Zorc could do this then maybe he would come through. Drea was sure he would have to pay something substantial in return but he would risk the price. Everyone wanted something but for what Zorc was offering, however he planned to achieve it, Drea would sacrifice.

There were steps round him, not far off, Zorc must've returned but loosening himself to become limp Drea gave a ruse of unconsciousness when he picked up the double set in the pace. Zorc wasn't alone. Was Drea strong enough to fight right now? He counted his heart beats, heard someone brutish in their swaggering gait push at the curtain round where he lay.

"Who's that?" It was aloof, nearly condescending, and Drea was too busy playing dead to be insulted by whatever scum was pretending not to be wary of his existence. It was a front, that confidence, Drea could sense it in the syllables. He could taste fear.

"Do they frighten you?" Zorc teased.

"Of course not!" The man snapped.

Drea extended his senses. It was a Seer or some other child of Lilith given the chill that followed them with the undertone scent of putrid meat. Drea hated Seers. What cocky thing had Zorc dragged into his hide out? Seers weren't usually strong unless they were female. If this was a male Seer with a strong wave of a core then it could only be of a few types.

"Looks like garbage." The Seer scoffed. "Do you eat Sequesters?"

"Leave it be." Zorc ordered his voice slipping down from a purr to a rumble that broke the human ruse of his voice into the layers that made him sound like a talking lion. Drea fought not to tense.

"Fine," the Seer sneered, and given their sass Drea quite guessed it was literally a Child of Lilith type. Nasty annoying fuckers he knew from experience.

Did Drea recognise his voice? Just vaguely? He racked his memory.

"What is this all about?" Oh yes, Drea knew that voice from somewhere.

"Atreyu and Jenzar destroyed Cassidia." Zorc answered more mildly.

"What else is new?" Akefia, it had to be, Drea was sure of it.

"There's no new Queen for Earth yet." The World Eater added.

"The nests nearest Earth will be fighting over claim for months." Akefia mused. "What of it? I'm growing impatient."

Uneasy more like. Akefia was one of the wiser Children of Lilith. A cunning enough fool to stay out of Drea's clutches and Atreyu's. He'd walked a fine line near big players while consistently securing himself little victories. He'd quite caused chaos in Earth's Egypt in the early settlement of the planet. A smart son of Lilith was never a good thing and Akefia knew well enough apparently not to want to take his chances with Zorc.

"You could be King."

"A Seer King?" Akefia baulked mockingly. "It would never happen. I don't have the power when I astral project. Don't speak nonsense."

"I'm going to grant that child their wish to make Jenzar Fraveous their own possession. Who says I couldn't give you enough strength to be a King amongst your sisters?"

"Jenzar Fraveous?" Akefia mulled. "Oh now I knowyou're some mad scum churner from the edge of the galaxy."

"Grant me a service and I will lend you enough power to rule a nest. For quite an epoch if you're careful in your dealings with Faens." Zorc tempted.

Drea felt sand on the sheets under him and tried not to worry his fingers lying dead like a piece of driftwood at sea. Could Zorc really do that? What would he get for it? It would change the rules of the game doubtlessly but why would he change them this way? Why take Jenzar from Atreyu? Why make a Seer King? What was the point of any of it? What did Zorc hope to gain? Fascinated, a detective at heart, Drea knew he would be trapped here in this faux hell till he unravelled the mystery.

"How?" Akefia supposed carefully. Greedy swine, trust Akefia Tozokuo to take his chances and gamble on a power gambit coming his way from some unknown thing. Still Drea knew he was a hypocrite for chastising the Seer when he was following the same course.

"Allow me occasion to borrow your Natural World vessel. It has the strength to bear me. Once I'm done I will leave you a trace of my power to conquer your sisters."

"Let you posses me?" For creatures that did so often Seers were frequently quite offended at such suggestions. Drea wondered meanly if it was like incest to the bottom feeders who called themselves the kin of supervisor Goddess Lilith.

"For say three days?" Zorc offered nonplussed by Akefia's disgust. "Sufficient time to settle my affairs and leave you with the appropriate amount of power you require."

Drea could nearly see the filthy Seer consider the dangling, potent, offer for power and dominion. Cunning, shrewd, Akefia would surely love to cause such chaos if it was within his reach but Seers trusted no one. They were weak in character. Could Zorc secure himself one as a vehicle?

"On the condition you leave my Ferryman untouched," Akefia specified carefully, and Drea wondered if it was from genuine affection or concern at least as much as a Seer could possess. "I'll expect a deposit to be assured of your… ability to pay up."

"I can give you a sample." Zorc acknowledged. "A temporary gift will not be nearly enough to be a King however should you think of abandoning your end of the bargain."

"I wouldn't dream of it." Akefia sassed snidely.

Yugi didn't mind being awake cross legged on the bed, scrawling 'Sepono Hunt' in the planner, while Yami hibernated under the quilt. The author had this weird, breathy, nearly-snore sound he made when he was just between consciousness and unconsciousness that was moderately fascinating to someone who'd slept alone for twenty years. Near ten in the morning Yugi's inner jitter bug was contemplating various simultaneous options: tumblr, baking, shower and gym. All sounded pretty good but he wasn't sure of the order yet. Really those four options sounded like a perfect summation of the three loudest voices in his head: Yugi preferred a morning on tumblr, Carolyn had some oddly compulsive addiction to icing, Heba was lavish enough to steal all the hot water and Atreyu was never ever finished training.

There was really odd layering inside his head. He was aware of the other three voices that weren't really his own but at the same time they were so totally him it was bizarre to think of them as separate entities. Yugi brushed the thought back though because it was way too early to get metaphysical.

What Yugi did mind was the hour and half later when they were stuck in the car, cruising the high way with McDonalds while his stomach did eighty an hour backflips behind his bellybutton. Why was Yugi doing this today? Carolyn Smith felt like she might bust one of his veins with throbbing anxiety at the back of his mind. He bit his nail. He hadn't done that since he was nine.

"You look like you're going to puke." Yami announced warily from the driver's seat, eyes flickering off the road, generations of instinct telling him to coddle the Faen when Yugi got that look in his eyes. "You okay?"

"It's just been like…" Yugi shrugged, a little lost. They were an hour into the drive there was no point turning round now. Besides, stubborn as a mule, would Yugi's backbone really let him run away? "I'm just really fucking nervous."

"You were just trying to keep him safe," the author mulled, "he'll understand. He's your Grandpa right? He's got to love you. You're family."

That had always been Yugi's policy, certainly, he made family units and then he protected them viciously. Atreyu did not give up on kin, Atreyu did not leave kin behind if bombs were coming down, Atreyu would rather die than abandon children, lovers, brothers or sisters and Yugi had inherited it naturally enough. Still…

"I just don't want to make him cry." Yugi muttered, canines scrapping cheese out from under his nail anxiously. "I mean how the hell am I supposed to explain fucking off for two years? I can't tell him about the Seers or you because it'll break the Secrecy Pact. I can't give him a good excuse."

"He raised you. He'll get it." Yami pacified. "He might think I'm a bad influence or something but whatever. I'm a big boy I can take it. You'll never forgive yourself unless you patch this up. You've got to miss him."

"Of course I do," Yugi sighed slouching, he missed everyone he couldn't see or hold from a myriad of life times. It was a soft insistent burn of longing his memory facilitated. "I just hate that he has to deal with my crap. He deserves a decent explanation and all I can give him is veiled stuff. He's going to think I joined a gang or something."

"That or I'm a sugar daddy," the author offered with a soft grin. "Totally feel free to blame me for stuff okay?"

"I think I'll let Grandpa do all the shit flinging today." He snorted.

"So just say 'Yes Sir'and don't make eye contact eh?" Yami teased gently. "Sounds like the last time you introduced me to your father in Venice."

"Heh," he smiled tightly, "well you were kinda a perv that life time. Licked the Bishop's daughter and everything."

"Hey, Kame Game Shop right?" Yami muttered as they rounded the suburban corner and the store front came into view.

"Yep," Yugi sighed, stomach churning.

The store front hadn't changed from what he could see over Yami's shoulder when they pulled up. Yugi had almost worried for a second that Grandpa would've sold the place but the very concept seemed inhumane and insane where the Motou family was concerned. Grandpa had escaped the loss of Yugi's parents by holding the store together, had escaped the loss of his wife years before that by starting the store, and upon Yugi's disappearance after high school surely there couldn't be another copping mechanism.

Yugi had nearly tangible flashbacks of putting on his 'happy-game-face' to go down stairs for breakfast after a night crying and exorcizing he'd snuck home from. He'd been a liar in this house really. In an odd way he'd been Atreyu pretending to be some goody-two-shoes happy-go-lucky school boy named Yugi Motou. Grandpa had been so good at supporting him till Yugi learned to protect the old man from it. Grandpa had let him exist without medication without judgement. He deserved the best, most joyous, face and attitude Yugi could give him and for all of his final year fighting Seers away from the house Yugi had striven to always be positive for the old man. Grandpa had gotten a child who passed their finals with flying colours because he deserved it not really because Yugi's heart was desperately in it for his own reason. He got smiles when Yugi was heartbroken and vengeful. Yugi didn't regret that.

Then when Yugi couldn't pretend really to be normal much longer, when he needed a home to go to where he could unwind as Atreyu without a mask, when the Seers really set in… he had ditched the old man to run off to Tokyo for the sake of both of them. Survival was the key. Sometimes Yugi felt like he was his own drill sergeant but as the tape played in his head, the justifications, he found he held his chin a little higher. He'd done this for the best reasons he could think of. He'd stick by those reasons even if Grandpa never knew or never believed him Yugi had done what he had thought was best to keep them alive. Atreyu was not easy to shame and Yugi had long ago learnt to accustom himself to saving the day with no credit or recognition.

All Yugi could regret was his own fear which had kept him from giving Sugoroku Motou some tangible sign that he was alive and well. He wasn't guilty in his own mind then but rather he feared the rejection and the anger which the old man would be validated in feeling when they met each other now.

'We've always held our head high,' Atreyu decided, 'we can do this. We can face the ramifications of our decisions.'

Yami was right, unsurprisingly, Yugi would never forgive himself if he didn't do this and Atreyu was right too because he could do this. Sugoroku Motou had been an adventurer, he had skipped continents to leave Yugi unsupervised while he played at Indiana Jones well into his sixties and seventies, he would just have to understand Yugi's own adventures.

"We good?" Yami checked, switching off the rumble of the ignition.

"Let's do it." Yugi inhaled bolstering.


Yami's better judgement was to offer to stay in the car but Champion code, that immortal instinct, wouldn't let him leave Yugi unassisted in a situation so trying.

Yugi had a natural bounce in his step, a stride, like he was about to knock someone's head off or give an inaugural speech. Yami since regaining his core had felt his own shoulders lift with self pride, had felt his own step lengthen, and his natural saunter had become infused with swag. Everything here, on this planet, was something for them to face head on and together.

They crossed the pavement, jingled the store bell as Yami unhooked the latch of the door, and in the afternoon sun he could have just a second to survey the layout of the room. It was a cute little store with a great abyss of a house hidden behind it. Shelves of board games, electronics, action figures, dice… lots of colour, lots of plastic, lots of love to the point Yami could sense the gently wafting inklings of good intent in every corner. This was some kind old ladies' cottage in the woods but for the twenty first century.

The old man at the counter, bot bellied and white bearded, was serving a boy and his mother so shuffling Yugi in behind him Yami took the distraction as an opportunity to mark entrances and exits. It was weird, still surreal, for Yami to position himself at such a spot in the store that he could easily face an unforseen threat. It wasn't even that he thought anything bad would happen. It was more as if, like some ex-marine, Yami couldn't diffuse the military body-guard style from his bones. He didn't want to have his back to the door, he didn't want Yugi out of sight behind him unless there was a threat in front of them, and he found himself following without thinking these days so Yugi was never out of arms' length. He was a Champion, that didn't stop when he was awake, that meant he was always vigilant for whatever enemies the armies of chaos would pitch against them.

Yugi took a spot by the Duel Monsters cards, Yami stationed behind him, and waiting patiently they followed, without ever raising their eyes, the motions of the mother and child at the counter. That was another skill Yami had recently learnt: looking without looking and using his magic to sense every inch.

Sugoroku had a lovely aura, a nice vibe, something kind that tingled round him like a bell and he was aware that the old man was aware of them as he packaged the woman's purchases. He didn't say anything however till they were out the door and turned onto the street.

"Yugi?" He called and awkwardly both he and the young man seemed quite unsure how to start this conversation.

"Hey," Yugi shrugged, grasping his own elbow in one palm. Yugi had been biting his nails the whole way over, they looked sore, Yami wanted to kiss them better but he let the Faen lead as his hands found his own pockets.

"What are you doing all the way out here?" Sugoroku Motou laughed a little, light hearted, but there was a glassy note to his eyes.

"I, um," Yugi laughed awkwardly, "I settled up my shit finally. I wanted to come say Hi."

"Let me know you're not dead in a ditch somewhere?" The old man suggested, slightly firmer, and Yami knew under that kind face this man didn't undervalue the pain of the past two years without any contact with his only living relative. He'd been hurt and worried.

"I'm sorry," the Faen sighed, "I got in some trouble I had to sort out for myself. I didn't want to make you get involved. It was my fault."

"Seto and Ryou told me as much," Sugoroku shrugged with some understanding and a little dumbstruck Yugi fumbled, "they send me Christmas cards. Good kids. Told me not to worry."

"Should've guessed," Yugi snorted, and Yami actually found it pretty typical that Ryou and Kaiba would take up in secret to help their war wary leader when he couldn't help himself. Not for the first time Yami found himself glad they were friends with Kaiba. Jackass or not he took this family coven as seriously as Yugi did.

"Well flip the sign why don't you," the old man ordered with a ruffle of the whiskers, "ain't going to be done talking for ages I don't think."

Sugoroku's tone had wavered, he'd let Yugi a little off the hook and all that stern seriousness was receding now the pain had flashed pronounced through Yugi's eyes. The Faen chuckled at his order weakly and as he turned Yami found himself already at the door flipping over the 'Open' sign to 'Closed'so the smaller, the younger, didn't have to stray away from his conversation. Yugi smiled at him in thanks and Sugoroku caught it.

"Who's your friend?" He pestered.

"Grandpa this is Yami Sennen," Yugi gestured cautiously, and as Yami wondered if perhaps Yugi had restrained himself from letting an aging traditionalist in on the nature of their union he perceived the warmth rolling off the Faen and how the old man received it.

"Went off and found yourself a fine piece of ass did ya?" Sugoroku challenged brazenly but not cruelly.

"Grandpa!" Yugi shrieked his Faen's grace and the tinder sweetness of his smile for Yami retracting.

"It's a pleasure to meet you," Yami intervened excitedly, thrusting his hand out and finding Jenzar's bold, enthusiastic, smile burning across his face.

"Oh you're a good one, aren't ya?" Sugoroku laughed suddenly, surprised by Yami's transparent joy, taking his hand stoutly. "Oh! Loosen up there kid! I've got crippled old hands!"

"Oh! Sorry!" Yami panicked instinctively and chuckling the old man brushed him off good humouredly. Yami was still getting used to how Jenzar's power affected his body. He was a lot stronger than he used to be.

"Just your type," he told Yugi waggling his finger between them, "can tell."

"You think?" The Faen supposed curiously, mildly bamboozled.

"Oh very much so," Sugoroku nodded, "seems a little less than human and a bit more like a weirdo if you know what I mean?"

"I…" Yami tensed, taunt himself, coiled. Yugi didn't appear to know what to say or how to explain. "Grandpa I… I'm sorry. I know I should've called more. I know I worried everyone but…I…"

"It's okay. It's okay," the old man assured, placated, mildly. "I know. You can't tell me. I guessed as much. I figured you'd be okay, you always are, I've just missed having you around but obviously you had a job to do. I don't know what exactly, never will, but I get it: it's important. You're important. Your slack jawed piece of ass over here is important."

There was a reality shattering moment of obscure, total, silence and utterly uncertain Yami's gaze wavered between Yugi and his Grandfather. He'd expected a lot of things, yelling and crying mainly, but not this bluntness. What did Sugoroku know? Did he know anything? Yami was scouring over security details but Yugi, mouth open, transformed as if a weight had been ripped off him.

"You're wonderful," Yugi exalted in amazement, swallowing over that contained contraction in his throat that was the Faen's guard against tears. "I'm so sorry."

"Oh don't be!" Sugoroku snorted, leaning into the counter. "Let's be honest here Yugi you and I have always known you had bigger problems than this silly old man. You were just playing house here. I knew it the day you were born, so did you parents, I got over it a long time ago."

"You did…?" He breathed cautiously octaves falling. "What do you mean?"

"Well," Sugoroku chuckled and gestured to Yami as he spotted him, "sit! Sit! You want to hear all the old family stories?"

"Hell yeah!" Yami laughed, mind racing, pulling his ass upon another display counter at Sugoroku's warm order and fascinated didn't bother to approach Yugi as the Faen leant heavily into the front counter. Yugi almost seemed to be reaching, hungrily, for whatever secret Sugoroku had been keeping that Yugi thought he was unaware of.

"When your mother was pregnant," the old man began to the Faen, "everyone thought you'd be a girl. I did too for a while mind but then I had the funniest dream. I don't remember much but, call me superstitious, when I woke up you might as well have slapped me round and said: listen up you old codger I'm coming so you better get sorry ass ready!"

Yami snorted. That sounded about right. Even Atreyu seemed to admit it when Yugi giggled breathlessly.

"You get a vibe about babies but when you were born the whole…energy of the room changed. I think it scared the pants off your mother. Some mornings I think you scared them. You were…too old for any of us, the second you came out, just looked at us like you were losing your patience with us already.

Sometimes I wondered if all those trips of mine, all the temples and the tombs had invited something less than human to follow me home. Probably did really. Sometimes I wondered if you'd switched the little girl your Mother was supposed to have with you, Changeling maybe, but…" Sugoroku smiled. "You light up. You're a good soul. I don't doubt it for a minute. I don't think I'll ever understand it or where you came from and frankly I don't think I want to but whatever you do your parents and I loved you just the way you are. Wasn't what we were expecting here in quiet little Domino but we never would've traded you.

I think, really, we both knew you were always going to escape. When you told me you were…seeing things. The way you spoke about it, I thought to myself: right, well, someone's done this before I think. I just figured wherever you came from had come looking for you, needed you back, and wanted to take you home. I've never really expected you to potter off and get married and be an accountant. You were always going to go off and find whatever he is and do whatever you do. I trust that. I don't trust myself to ever understand it totally but, well, I'm a senile old bat. You're happier right now than I think I've ever seen you, just rolls off you, makes you more like yourself. A little more than human, which you've always been, and I'm just glad you hid here for a while."

"I want to part of your world again," Yugi swore reverently, "I can do it again. Things are better. We can pretend to be normal again."

"Sounds good to me." Sugoroku shrugged merrily, easy, utterly disposed and unknowing. "Got a new boy for me to use as manual labour too, just thought you'd take one home with ya?"

"Heh, yeah," the Faen laughed. "We're…we're good with each other."

"Old friends…?" The old man guessed knowingly and all at once Yami could see how deep that innocent insight of Sugoroku's ran when Yugi's face, unconstricted by secrets, could light up at the recognition.

"Ancient friends," Yugi concurred.

"Well it'll be good to have you back," he smiled, patting at Yugi's tense fingers on the counter. "Having things like you, Kaiba and Ryou and him over there, makes me feel young like I'm on another excavation, little bit of danger and all."

"You are a perplexingly wonderful old man…" Yami found himself unable to restrain in praise. They'd been reincarnated thousands of times, millions and billions, and rarely did he remember a soul so permissive to their oddities.

"I like to think so." Sugoroku nodded curtly, a little gruff but twinkling. "How about some lunch? You can lie and tell me all the normal things about him."

"Ha!" Yugi cackled, relieved and almost weightlessly glittering over his shoulder at Yami. "That sounds about right. Yami had a gambling addiction in high school?"

"Well then!" The old man crooned. "He'll fit right in! I'll get the cards!"

Yami was going to get fat from home cooked meals. Shuffling down in the sunbed by the pool he let his sunglasses slip a little down his nose. It had been two months since he'd won Yugi. Two months, holy shit, he swallowed greedily round weekend air.

"What's with the trampoline?" He inquired of Kaiba lazily by his shoulder in the next sunbed both hands flat on his own bare belly.

"Meh, end of tax year soon," the Watcher grumbled carelessly.

Mokuba shrieked a little as Jaden came down on the opposing side of the black stretch of the trampoline. They were basically the same age. They'd taken quite a liking to each other actually and barefooted on the trampoline in the backyard Mokuba was trying to teach Jaden, the royal spaz, how to back flip supposedly. This must've all been quite a grand escape for a high schooler like Jaden from middle suburbia. It was good this way. It kind of pained Yami to know there were Watchers, Reapers and who knew what else across the planet who couldn't feel like themselves because they had to play at being normal twenty-four-seven. It gave him an odd glimmer of smug satisfaction to know at least with his books on the shelves they didn't all feel so alone.

"Yugi's birthday soon too," Kaiba reminded himself with a sigh, "fuck."

"Fuck," Yami laughed, two months. He had to let that all settle before his mind could properly digest it.

"The coven's grown." The Watcher groaned next. Apparently it was Yami's fault.

Yami would take that accusation from Kaiba given it was a great afternoon and he was accustomed to the Watcher blaming him for inconvenience. Under Yami's lazy glance Leon gasped up through the surface of the pool, Joey cackled, and rebelling the other lunged back to try and dunk the blonde American in turn. Leon missed, Joey waded back on longer legs, and unsteady the blonde nearly fell over when the plastic ball collided with the back of his head. Ryou laughed, sinking to his nose, as Joey spun round to find his latest attacker.

Yugi was not yet embroiled in their aquatic warfare. Leaning into his arms, legs kicking the water, on the ceramic edge of the pool those mermaid thighs Yami loved were glistening from all the water sports. He looked happy. Actually, more than that, Yugi was happy Yami could sense. He sunk back a little in his seat, shoulders slumping, stomach quelled with Champion's pride at that. His Faen was content with the blissful level of normalcy they'd established this life time.

"Can't get Joey to move in," Kaiba grunted, slipping one hand behind his head. "I don't get what the fucking problem is."

"You should get him out of his place," Yami approved languidly, "that apartment's a national health hazard."

"I know," the Watcher conferred with a scoff. "I don't get this girly commitment fear of his. Fucking cold feet."

"Meh," the Champion shrugged, "he's independent. He probably doesn't want to have to depend on you for a place to sleep if you have a blowout."

"We're not going to have a blowout." Kaiba grunted. "If we were going to have a blowout it would've been months ago. The job interviews over for fuck's sake."

"Chill," Yami chuckled. "What's it matter if he wants to wait a little longer? Not like you're getting his dowry when he shacks up with you."

"Not like I need it either." The Watcher reminded. "Besides, you don't get to tell me to chill you fucker. You and Yugi pussyfoot for months and then, as far as Joey knows, the day you start dating properly you move in to play house. Far as Joey knows you skipped half the build-up and flew straight to old married couple."

"It's awesome." The Champion grinned wickedly slipping both hands behind his head to cradle his skull as his ankles crossed. "My mother thinks I'm nuts."

"Argh," Seto grumbled, "Disney."

Maybe he was right a little but Yami could hardly care. His mother liked Yugi, was chirpy with him, but Yami knew her well enough to recognise her hesitance. She thought Yugi was too young, thought there was too much of a wage gap, and he didn't doubt she put his sudden flirtation down as a quarter-life to early thirties crisis or wooing by a gold digger. She'd only be convinced with time and tribulation but then she'd come round. Yugi's Grandfather got it a little better but only because he seemed to comprehend that Yugi was generally bizarre. He didn't expect them to work on standard rules of engagement. So long as Yami didn't manhandle his boy the aging gambler seemed to expect his only grandchild to prefer the company of older male lovers and approve enough.

Joey was… Well, as far as the Yugi Situation was concerned, he was harmlessly smug. He'd been hazing Yami for months to make the leap and cement flirtation into romance without ever getting the low-down on the actual truth of the matter. Now he was by far their most vocal supporter but he and Kaiba seemed to have stalled a little. It was healthy. If relationships were races Kaiba and Joey had certainly been more linear, they'd gotten laid already, but while Yami tangled with that sexual hurdle with Yugi he was content with the bigger issues they'd just started to encounter. It would all work out. He had absolute confidence.

"What did you end up doing with your place?" Kaiba pestered with a sigh.

"Still renting it," Yami shrugged. "We swapped some of the furniture between the houses but other than that it's the same just empty. I just want somewhere we can run to if something happens, you know? That probably sounds stupid but whatever."

"Supernatural safe house is different to a guns and security cameras kind of safe house." The Watcher actually agreed with him. That had to be a first. "Send the bills and I'll pay the rent."

"Nah, it's fine," the Champion grunted.

"I'm being a selfish prat," Kaiba retorted, "I want somewhere I can crash too if something nasty shows its ugly fucking head. Just let me pay your goddamn rent."

"Heh," Yami chuckled lightly, "if you want. I'll email you."

"Good." Kaiba could be so business in board shorts it was astounding. All he needed now was an ear piece for his cell phone and a cocktail and the Watcher could have his own James Bond movie subplot. "Anything from Drea?"

"Hmm?" He perked as if stung.

"Your other runt," Kaiba reminded, "he wasn't at your coming back victory party. Have you heard from him since we thrashed Cassidia?"

"No…" Yami mumbled. "I haven't seen him. I think he's pissed at me."


Yami supposed he never should let it be said that Kaiba was anything but totally unsupportive in situations that required any level of emotional depth. Groaning he slumped back heavily and sealed his eyelids behind his sunglasses. Ruing it Yami had to consider Drea was probably the one unsatisfactory blip on his radar. It was no one's fault really but it was the truth of the matter. Drea was unhappy somewhere, Yami just knew it, and he wouldn't see head or tail of the Sequester till Drea had a good scream somewhere in peace.

Drea, he mulled, was their little prodigy. Nephele was very competent, Morphis occasionally crippled by insufficient confidence and flippancy but Drea could spit lightning, hogtie Champions, smell fear and taste dishonesty. It was frightful too how clearly Yami could picture Drea now when he closed his eyes. He had known Nephele, Morphis and Drea so long that at every impasse he could recall them in almost holographic detail. He could summon Drea's earthen, metallic, smell that came with sweat and leather. He knew the gritty feeling of the sand flecked in the Sequester's thick dark hair that tumbled round his shoulders.

Drea was so akin to them physically. Nephele looked almost Swedish in his Astral form, like Hitler's dream boy, a wisp while Morphis too seemed to have fallen into their lap from another continent but Drea was almost the composite of Atreyu and Jenzar. He was their features smashed and melted together. Cheroke-Spanish skin, chocolate maroon eyed, teetering along a limit of sensual but yet utterly childish, docile, and small to Jenzar with a sweetheart face and a slender athletic build that looked as if it could carry more on its shoulders than Atreyu.

The sleeveless coat Drea wore, the mishmash of black and grey textiles with an almost bustle back, gave him the appearance of having freshly escaped some steam-punk world as if he'd fought himself out of the womb at the origin of time. Those worn gloves he always wore smelt like a nursery to Jenzar, to Yami, and those strings of beads round Drea's hips were knickknacks and trophies of battles won all at once. Drea had always felt rather Arabic, always sauntered, and didn't seem to mean to be sensual half the time he just was. Dangerous details made him appear venomous rather than brittle just as Trey looked soft and felt hard. There was a good heart there.

How many times had Yami tucked Drea as a bundle into bed? How many times had Drea had some version of that ridiculously creepy rabbit doll he loved and Atreyu kept sewing for him? How many times had this one made their other two cry or cried himself? Devious and honey sweet and wanting to be wanted. Yami might've intimidated Morphis but Drea intimidated him.

Drea's problem was what Drea's problem had always been. Drea had no one. He was so stable in his personality, himself, and as a Sequester he remembered eternity. Nephele and Morphis had mastered finding appropriate companions to scratch their romantic itches throughout reincarnations. Atreyu and Jenzar, Yugi and Yami now, were bound to each other forever. Yet Drea, who was one of them, had no one to match him. Jenzar knew Drea wanted a proper lover, for lifetimes rather than just years, someone to remember centuries with. Drea was the lone vampire, the companionless immortal, the Doctor with no girl, the troublemaker who wanted a stabilizer. Jenzar would've done anything to give it to him, Yami felt that ache, and when Atemu had seemed like such a good option he knew that right now Drea must've been mourning dreadfully for another lost opportunity to happiness.

There wasn't much that Yami could to though. As Jenzar Fraveous knowing he couldn't help someone made him feel nearly impotent but it was true. He couldn't find Drea unless Drea wanted to be found and what was he going to do? Play supernatural matchmaker? If there was something that could've been done Yugi, Atreyu, would've done it centuries ago but there was no easy solution. Some things weren't guaranteed and love most assuredly couldn't be forced to manifest.

"Oomph!" Yami lurched a little as a bundle of long legged, soaking wet, Faen sprawled across his lap with weighted impact.

Yugi's arms secured snug round his neck, equally drenched on Yami's dry skin, and pulling himself up on the sunbed the Faen rather suddenly over lapped their bodies to pepper Yami's cheek bones with kisses.

"I've caught a fish," Yami snorted, recovering enough to push his sunglasses back atop his head as he meet Yugi's eyes when the smaller knocked their noses. "You okay?"

"Just wanted a hug," Yugi shrugged, slumping against him.

The Faen had deceptively sharp senses. Every dip in Yami's mood seemed to bring Yugi tumbling into his lap whether the smaller realized it himself or not. There was a string that tugged them closer when they needed support. Instinct said that if something was wounding, painful, then they needed to cluster together and fight it off. So Yami squeezed Yugi closer, caught a kiss, and felt his heart contort with syrupy joy despite his attempts at self-restraint. Seriously at this rate if Yami got anymore love-struck and sappy he was going to have to surrender his Man Membership card back to the union.

"Can we go home in a bit?" Yugi whispered against the shell of his ear gently.

"Yeah sure," he consented. "Everything okay?"

"I just don't feel good." The Faen mumbled into his neck. "Something's not right."

"Like what? What's wrong?" The Champion pestered. The whole rest of the world seemed to shrink into a singularity: Yugi. Nothing else outside the uncertain, uneasy, face of the Faen seemed to exist to Yami's six or seven senses.

"I just…" Yugi frowned, fingers straying awkwardly on Yami's bare clavicle as they bundled up into each other to whisper like school kids in a corridor corner. "I don't know. It's like something in the water's off. Like… I don't know… the Veil feels tense. I think the Supervisors are something. Worried maybe?"

"Big tear in the Veil?" Yami suggested, palm skirting up and down Yugi's upper arm almost anxiously.

"No…" the Faen considered thoughtfully. "I can't feel one but there's…I don't know, something weird, like a tumour?"

"Tumour?" He blinked.

"There's this chunk on the Supernatural side of the Veil, that's just sitting there, and I think it's a dimension but it's like it's shrivelled up and died. I can't…" Yugi paused. "I can't feel into it. It's like it's quarantined."

A realm in the Veil that wasn't permeable? A realm along the Supernatural side of the Veil, near Earth, that a Faen couldn't read the symptoms of or glance into couldn't be good. Yami had never heard of such a thing and scanning Jenzar's memories neither had the oldest piece of himself. Not since the very earliest days of the first life however when things were sketchy at best and rules slim.

"If you can feel it it's probably going to be our problem soon." Yami sighed. That was usually how these things worked. Something happened, Yugi picked it up and then Gate Keeper called them in to play fix up. As the skilled powerhouses of Earth fixing this crap was their responsibility. "You look anxious."

"It's bad." Yugi frowned. His eyes seemed to have lost focused as his energy pried along the Veil, fingers nearly mapping it idly on Yami's skin as he leant all his weight into the Champion's protective grasp. "There's big energy. A couple of the Supervisors seem involved. I don't think any of them know what it is."

"Which ones?"

"The Gate Keeper, I can sort of feel Third Star, the Leviathan, Ammit and Gaia." The Faen counted off hesitantly.

The Reaper's God, the Mother Goddess of the Faens, the God of the Watchers, the God of the Sequesters and the Goddess who guarded and supervised Earth as her current pet project. That wasn't good news. It was practically an all-star team of Supernatural big wigs looking into whatever this tumour was that Yugi could sense picking at him.

"You want to go home?" Yami conferred gently.

"What about Jaden?" The Faen worried diligently.

"He'll get a lift. Someone will take him." He deferred guiltlessly. He had absolute confidence in the rest of the coven to secure Jaden home before too much later. Right now Yami's top priority had to be what it so often was: Yugi. The Faen was far too tense in his arms, too unyielding and distant mulling over this thing he could feel.

"Give me another fifteen," Yugi squirmed, shifting out of his arms. "I'm going to take a dip."

Yami would've argued, his better judgement however told him to let the Faen sink back under the surface of the pool. It must've been the mermaid in Yugi but Yami somehow knew from experience that to the younger water was like moonlight in its remedial qualities. The moon controlled the tide of the vast, unknowable and mysterious seas while Third Star watched through the moon. So if Yugi was uncomfortable instinct told that the best thing was to let him glide back, submerge himself, and then plucking the Faen up take him home to kiss and stroke and rock.

Really there was nothing they could do till they were called to hunt so, hands gliding down Yugi's forearms the author let his sneaky come-to-life character drift back and dive with a splash back between Joey, Leon and Ryou. Together, Yami smiled, Leon, Ryou and Yugi could've been a gaggle of mermaids especially given how Ryou's hair clung to him and shimmered out in the water. He sighed, shuffled to sit on the edge of the sunbed now damp from his captured mermaid's fleeting embrace and watched. Mokuba and Jaden had given up on the trampoline and where on their backs in the grass.

He needed to keep them safe. They were too precious. This was too precious.

Yugi pressed a little idly at his nose stud with the tip of his pinkie and let the back of his thighs dampen the car seat. That old captured lightning wrapped up inside him from his core felt like it was rattling his ribcage. His core was pumping up the stocks of power, getting ready for a fight, like a lizard throwing up its collar and trying to psych itself for a conflict. It wasn't just him either, he was sure, the red pendent which still held the Lance of Lazarus on this side of the Veil was warm on his clavicle and he could feel Yami's spells tighten round his skin.

What would it be this time? The Seers surely couldn't have managed something like this but if Cassidia was any proof they were getting smarter or they had new help. Trepidation was mingled with excitement and cautious Yugi hooked one leg over the other and seemed to feel himself slip back into his mind a little. The oaks lining Kaiba's drive flew in and out of view as his forearm lulled against the door and instinct had taken the captain's seat.

Inside Atreyu was doing the count down: the coven was safe, the other Faens were safe, Earth was safe, the Seers were disorganised and the Supervisors were in cohorts on whatever this oddity was. All the equipment was in line. Yugi had Jenzar, the Lance, his Needle, his core and a whole back up unit of bad-asses to call upon. If anything this would be nothing more than the next big adventure for them to face to now Jenzar was returned. They'd been in disasters before, rectified their share, and this was nothing substantially new but the signals he was getting down the line from the Veil were unsettling. It was like beeps on radar.

His hair was still wet, fringe sticking to his cheeks, when they made it inside the house. Their house Yugi realized. He clutched the towel round him a little tighter, felt a surge of heat and panic mingle, as Yami locked the front door. He was perhaps a little mad, love-struck still, when Yami turned and dropping his towel Yugi grasped the author's cheeks and dragged him down into a sudden burst of contact. Yami lurched subtly, hooked an arm round him, and let their lips mingle firmly as Yugi's teeth scrapped his bottom lip with emphasis.

Yugi found himself fondling every feature of Yami's face with his worried fingertips. Something tiny, scared and desperate was hungering inside him for that exquisite essence of Jenzar bleeding thickly under the skin of the current body he was clinging to. Jenzar who was, thank God, his Yami. Thank God. His hand strayed over the curve of Yami's cheek, the strength in his jaw, the column of his neck back up into the tangle of his damp hair to curl and tug him harder into Yugi.

They stopped for a moment with no real prompt, Yugi nuzzling his nose against Yami's, the Faen's body clutching up into the Champion's like he'd done for thousands of years. He missed this. He had missed this he corrected. Yami was home, Jenzar wasn't leaving, and they were safe. They could face another adventure. He repeated the word over and over in his head. 'Safe' he told himself as his senses told him something dreadful was on the cusp of their sanctum yet, if he was honest with himself, then…

They hadn't truly been 'safe' since leaving Sanctuary.

At the thought Yugi crushed his lips back against Yami's, cloyed, and took sharp inhalations of his musky scent. Was Yugi scared to fight again? Scared that next time Yami's soul went missing he wouldn't be able to find it? Was this Atreyu Damestaire with stage fright? He couldn't contemplate himself being so weak but wasn't that the magic of Jenzar? Jenzar, the Champion, with who he didn't need a shield or a mask and with who he could be weak and tiny. Yugi's fingers were hooked in Yami's collar, finding skin, practically devouring him.

He wanted this smooth body heat against his, this bigger form, this cool hand arm pillowing his head. He wanted Yami. He wanted Yami properly. No more excuses, no more waiting, something inside his instinct told him it had to be tonight. It was that old animal part of him which always knew where and when the storm was coming from.

"Yugi," Yami sighed into him, squeezing him tighter because the Faen's touch had become so firmly insistent on his skin. Yami's eyes caught his face between kisses and as the Champion's hand ran down the small of his back, over the curve of his arse, fingers tangling in his hair the man seemed to tremble. "You okay? What's wrong?"

"Nothing, I'm okay," Yugi would've said as much if his leg was amputated. Some details of the personality never changed like that. From Atreyu to Heba he was always insistent he could keep going but he still could beg. "I just want you. I love you."

"I love you too," the man promised, and for a painful second he seemed the scared, unfamiliar, author from the coffee shop months ago but then holding Yugi the man was suddenly himself again.

He seemed to sense the desperation, to taste it on Yugi when he dug his wicked tongue into the Faen's eager mouth and then Yami was his hero again in every motion. Every little touch spiralled memories through Yugi. Windowsills on distant planets, mud trenches, fields and palaces and river banks and forests and the myriad of other locales in which they'd made love under a million different names and starry skies. This was his soul-mate, his immortal companion, Yami had come home and Yugi would be damned if anything ever wedged between them again with the fire the man's touch stirred in every nerve ending withering under his plush skin.

"I need you," Yugi ordered hoarsely, fingers sliding under a damply clinging shirt and under the waist band of worn denim. "Properly."

No more playing around. No more prepping or nervous excuses. Yugi wanted this creature, this man, seated inside him in every tender, intimate, way he could be. He was sick of being shell shocked and hesitant on the edge of the pool. He wanted to be all the way back to who they were. He wanted to be totally Atreyu Damestaire the mate of Jenzar Fraveous. He wanted to make love. He needed this. Yugi wasn't himself without this piece of his life he'd been dying at the loss of. Yami deserved to hold him, to take him, to have him utterly as totally as Yugi trusted him and adored him. Yami deserved this reward that was the sole privilege of every Jenzar reincarnation since the dawn of time.

They practically fell, tumbling, into the bed. Stairs? When had they gotten up stairs? Yugi didn't care. His mind was still rewinding over old tapes of memories and trying to sing itself back to serenity with the chant of 'safe' humming inside him. He was so absorbed in Yami he'd lost cognizance of anything less significant. Really, hadn't everything else always paled in comparison to Jenzar in his focus? This was his only anchor in the universe. As a reincarnation of Atreyu Yugi was so steeled to be the survivor, the superhero, that never ceased but this soul made him stop with screeching, squealing, tires and throw himself into someone else's care for a while. Yami was his shield from all the vulnerabilities of anxieties, nightmares, and paranoia.

Faens could be such wild eyed, vicious, relentlessly ruthless forces without something to make them happy. Vampires, Erlkings, monsters… were just shades of the fairy tales they'd inspired. Yami made him glow, made him crumble into a trembling heap of weak goo even this second as they cleaved together. Yugi wondered if he'd soured, turned gaunt and hollow and sharply dark while Jenzar was gone, become one of those fearsome monsters he fought with all the power of raw lightning or the tempest. Then Yami's hand ran over his cheek as his lips buried hard against Yugi's opposing side and Yugi sighed so sweetly he astounded himself. He didn't ever want this to stop.

Yugi didn't ever want to lose this link which kept him grounded. As Yami breathed into his cheek, lips burning, he didn't know if Yami was aware of just how much he did to keep Yugi's feet on the ground while the Faen's head was in the clouds.

His core crackled, the Lance of Lazarus ate up the power compounding inside his slender body and it almost seemed to be licking its lips as Yami sighed into his earlobe. Yugi felt the cold air on his legs as Yami's fingers hooked in the groin of his shorts and dragged them down to bunch about his knees. He could feel hands hooking round his ankles and slipping off his sneakers, holding him in place with a firm arm about his waist, till the soaked board shorts clunked against the carpet dirtily. Arms were around him again, Yami was pressing off his own knees, heaving them up towards the pillows so Yugi felt the carpet slip away from under his bare toes till he was lying totally in the fold of the mattress. He felt vulnerable surrendering perfectly.

Yami's hands glided over the newly exposed flesh, along the icy bones in his ankles and his hips, pushing at the tender flesh of his navel and then his thighs. Fingers worked their way between his legs to the secretive flesh of his inner thighs and prodded Yugi's legs apart, lifting his knee and then rolling back over it down the path to where his leg met his groin. Yugi's eyes were burning so hot in the darkened room he couldn't see a thing as he blinked. The light from the street lamps was half falling through the curtains as if to remind him of a world outside this insane, weird, place he was burrowed in. Yet Yugi didn't feel as it there was any floor beyond the bed or any stability anywhere in the world expect with Yami.

The Champion's legs came between his, hands grasping his hips, and then the larger, harder, hips were nestled between his thighs with Yami's weight heavy on his belly. The man leant on his elbows, all hot on Yugi, secure and kissing the Faen's forehead idly as the Champion ground his hips down. The Faen squirmed, he found himself making noises, he found the molten heat in his body spreading through his foolish, chilled and shaking form and he found himself drifting into goo.

Yami worked down into him, over and over, till Yugi felt some of the heat coming back into his drying body. His fingers curled in the bedding, panting weakly, cheeks crimson either from desire or Yami's loud pants into his ear. He still could smell chlorine, freshly mowed grass, all imprinted on his bare clammy skin while the pungency of the room ebbed round their grinding forms in the semi-darkness.

He almost felt alright, like he could force his head above water and breathe, but then Yami sat back between his spread legs and began unbuckling his pants and Yugi felt another wave of ice pulse from his heart out. He wanted it in writing somewhere, somewhere solemn, that this man would never vanish, never die, and never drift away through time. Four billion years with Yami couldn't possibly ever be enough and Yugi could blink away tears at the very thought of another separation.

He wanted to look but his eyes drifted and settled intensely on the ceiling. His lids fell shut, eyes watery and hot so that the lids fused. He cycled inside, ice hitting magma, between this hungering for security and this intense, ancient, burn for Yami's body folded with his. He was so happy. He tensed at the brush of Yami's bare thighs on his, even more so as the man's bare groin overlapped his as the author stretched over him to fondle the bedside table.

Then Yami was sitting back again working slick, painfully long, fingers into his taunt body without a word. It wasn't painful anymore. Not after months of teasing, slick limbed and dark fairy tale touches. Instead Yugi felt his form melt as if it wasn't quite physical as if he was turning soluble from now reaching his boiling point. Peculiarity gave way to old primal rush, his stomach flipping round butterflies, as the Champion worked him, stretched him, with a trio of perfectly formed, supernaturally charming, fingers.

Wasn't it Germany where Jenzar's incarnation, Yami's past self, had climbed through his window and plundered him in his bed? With one hand on the Faen's mouth, hips between his thighs rolling as the fairy's parents slept down the hall? Yugi moaned in the current moment. He could never go backwards in time just like he could never skip forward through any trial. All he had was to recreate this beautiful thing, expression, art form, through reincarnations.

All in a second then Yugi was totally invaded with the slimy plunder of hard arousal into snug cleft in the darkness. Gasping he found himself rather fearlessly forced into submission, moaning and drowning, as Yami hefted his thighs about his own hips and took him anew with a searing first thrust. Yugi's fingers were digging holes in the bedding, the ceiling stretched out above his eyes as they speared open, his hair flared over his face, his body rocked into the mattress where he melded with the author. So good…

Skin slapped skin, a sound from the dawn of time reminiscent to Yugi of the crack of the world coming into being, and everything was slid back into place inside his heart. For the first time in four hundred years Jenzar Fraveous, now Yami Sennen, had returned to make love to him. Yugi moaned, head twisting back, rapturously lost in the forest of himself. This was his air. This was everything. This was the closest thing to Sanctuary, to paradise, a mortal body could taste: Yami with him, in him, connected and hot and grinding.

He was praying through hiccupping sighs, staccato moans strung out, with the ancient fire-side rhythm of the man's hips rolling against his delicate inner thighs. Milky skin started to ripple with sweat, took on tang, and in the darkness the grass scent of Kaiba's backyard faded till only a sniff of chlorine remained on Yugi. The Faen's hands tangled cording round Yami's shoulders like ribbons to lace them up by pulling the Champion's firm chest down to brush his pectorals and his belly. Yami panted against Yugi, on his haunches, eyes closed and consumed.

It was beautiful. At least Yugi was convinced it all was when his ankles hooked round the man's broad flanks, one hand coiling in Yami's hair as they threaded, sewed, up into one merged, jointed, being. Yugi could let go into this, release the mask and the sword, let himself be completely held. He didn't have to be strong here, didn't have to be anything special but another stupid kid wildly in love. He could revel in Yami wanting him. Yugi could smile through his moans as the man's girth dragged languidly in and out of him.

For the thousandth time he prayed accolades through his purrs thanking whoever had orchestrated it that Yami was the one.

His thighs became molten as the minutes crept on endlessly. Like a ship at sea. It was like an itch waiting for it to end dying for release as corded muscles down Yugi's spine tightened. The ache escaped him and the pleasure started to mount as Yami's burning, stiff, arousal slipped in and out of him in long smooth strokes. He loved it. He became, slowly, hyper aware of the sounds he was making, the purrs and the moans, and the groaning grunts Yami was returning. Suddenly he was bucking, crying, coming like he'd never achieved in a few quick fondlings of himself. He whimpered, his whole body flexing and twitching around Yami from his toes to his head till the man came hard into him with a few brutal thrusts. The Champion moaned voice breaking almost tightly over the sound as if he wanted to cry out. It was the same sound Jenzar made when he was stabbed.

The motions dragged out unbearably as Yami languidly used Yugi to milk the last of his climax and boneless the Faen slumped into the silken cradle of the mused bedding which was his island of a reality. His whole world condensed into the last, dragging, gyrations of the author along his skin. Yugi's hands fell, fumbling weakly, down Yami's chest and soothed he felt every star line up pristinely with the natural order of things. This was heaven. This was safety. This was his and his handsome prize collapsed a little, stumbling clumsily, onto Yugi as the Faen held the author through the throbbing palpitations of their heartbeats.

Everything would be okay.

1 Akefia Tozokuo- obviously Bakura's Astral/true name it comes from 'Akefia' which is the fandom name for the Thief King and 'Tozokuo' which is basically the Japanese term for 'Thief King'.

Okay! So I have some good news and I have some bad news.
Good News: this is just the end of what I consider 'season one' while I have a whole second plot involving Drea, Bakura and Zorc with appearances including Marik, Pegasus, and more coming up.
Bad News: I'm going to take a little break from Fantastic Parallels. Probably for a couple of months till I have new chapters to give you guys. I just want to write something else for a while for variety. So Gambit will be updating weekly and by the time it finishes hopefully I'll have new FP for you.

After twenty two chapters I doubt you guys are going to mind me taking a vacation but if you do know I love you lot and that while I leave this for a little while I'm striving to make Gambit and one shots which should be very enjoyable.