Atem leaned back on the couch, sipping at a cup of coffee as he scanned the pages of his novel. The breeze that drifted in through the window was soft and sweet, the summer sun hot. He paused for a moment to glance out at Domino's clear blue skies, taking a long breath. There were a few days he regretted staying here instead of moving on to the afterlife. This was certainly not one of them. The weather was perfect, the atmosphere peaceful, and there hadn't been an apocalypse or disaster in weeks—
A sudden shriek shattered his reveries like glass; he sat bolt upright. "Yugi?" he called, voice tight with concern. He rose quickly and began to search the house.
Their bedroom was deserted, though Yugi's bed remained unmade. He touched Yugi's pillow—still warm. He'd risen recently. Atem hurried to the kitchen, then into the game shop; he found both dark and empty. That left the bathroom. He approached it to find the door shut, the light on. "Yugi?" he asked again, raising his hand to knock. Dimly he registered that his fingers were trembling.
A faint squeak of alarm came from within, like a mouse with its tail caught in a trap. "Y-yes?" Yugi croaked back at him. Atem frowned. Was it just his perception, or did Yugi's voice seem… off, somehow?
"How are you doing in there?" Atem asked conversationally, hoping his light tone could disguise his growing worry. Was he sick? But Yugi was never ashamed to admit he was ill. Atem suspected that he even enjoyed all the pampering and attention.
There was a pause. The tension was palpable. "Y… You're not supposed to talk to people when they're in the bathroom!" Yugi snapped at him.
His attempt to sound vehement turned comical when his voice cracked. Atem's eyes lit up. Voice cracking—hiding in the bathroom—could puberty have struck at last? Atem cleared his throat, fighting to keep his amusement under wraps. "That's quite true," Atem admitted. "But in my defense, people in the bathroom aren't supposed to scream."
Another pause, this one longer. "Screaming?" Yugi asked, far too late.
"Yugi," Atem said, voice growing more stern. "Come on, now; come out."
"I'm really fine—"
"I think Grandpa would be very angry with us both if you forced me to break in there and retrieve you."
"Wait!" He heard a loud thump, as if Yugi had thrown himself against the door. "H-hold on…"
Yugi chewed on his fingernails, eyes wide. What was he going to do? He couldn't let Atem see him like this! Oh, why had he had to scream? "Yugi!" Atem shouted, and Yugi jumped, a hair's breadth away from collapsing into panic. There had to be something, something, anything… Why couldn't Atem just leave him alone and let him think…
He turned toward the bathroom mirror and almost instantly flinched back away from it, clasping his hand over his mouth. This couldn't be happening. This couldn't be his body. He was hardly the most masculine man in the world, but…
Rib cage and waist had contracted until his torso formed a subtle hourglass curve. His shoulders had narrowed; collarbones pressed delicately out against his skin. The mad hair that had stood up in tufts on his head now brushed against his shoulders and back, and the yellow color of his bangs had spread through his entire mane, leaving him a sunny blonde. He wished he could say the small twin masses hiding beneath his t-shirt were the worst changes of all, but… between his legs… A choked sound escaped him as he squeezed his thighs together.
Atem banged more firmly on the bathroom door, suggesting there had been some substance to his threat to break it down. Yugi hung his head, acknowledging his defeat. Even if he somehow managed to change himself back this instant, it was already too late. He had been in here so long Atem would never let the matter lie. Stubborn… "All right," he said. He straightened up. "I'm… I'm coming out…"
He set his hand on the doorknob and felt his courage skitter away. He couldn't imagine the look on Atem's face, when he saw… everything. Cracking the door open ever so slightly, he peeked out at Atem's face through the open slit. "See? I'm fine," he said, though he kept most of his body out of sight.
Atem slammed his hand against the door before Yugi could maneuver it shut. "You know as well as I do, Yugi, that it's going to take a lot more than that… to…" He blinked. "Your hair," he stated. Yugi glanced aside. "You dyed it?"
"Uh… well, yes and no…"
"Was it always so long?" Atem mused, brow furrowing.
"Listen, um…" Yugi took advantage of Atem's distraction to ease the door a little further closed. "You… you know the powers people have been getting ever since we sealed the Millennium items?"
The short sentence was the only hint Atem needed to figure it out. Yugi couldn't help but be amused by the emotions that crossed Atem's face—confusion, at first, then alarm, hastily followed by a poised smile of support. "You have one?" he asked lightly, as if it were all quite ordinary. Then again, after everything he'd been through, maybe it was ordinary to him. "Then your hair… and…"
He began to give his partner a closer look, and Yugi slammed the door shut in his face. "I just need another minute to figure it out, okay?" he said.
"Well, hold on!" Atem called. Yugi struggled to ignore him, to concentrate. "What is it?"
"I—I'll tell you later!" Now will you please shut up! Yugi hissed in his mind, frustration growing by the minute. He leaned against the countertop. What had he been thinking when he'd first changed; that was the question. He'd gotten up to go to the bathroom, still dazed from sleep, lifted the lid… He'd been aiming for the toilet bowl, he really had, but things hadn't gone according to plan. How easy women had it, he'd thought as he'd cleaned up—just being able to sit down and let loose. He'd considered starting to imitate them. After all, it wasn't as if he had to worry about anything touching the water…
Yugi reddened at the very memory. Yes, that was it; that must have been it. He'd thought about imitating girls and he'd become one; now he just had to think the opposite, right? He closed his eyes, concentrating. Seconds passed. And then a sudden pressure began to weigh on his flesh and bones, as if some invisible hand were squeezing at him. It… it was working! He almost laughed out loud.
He turned back toward the mirror and sighed to find his good old male self staring back at him. Thank goodness! He wrapped his arms around himself and hugged himself tight. He'd eat glass before he took this body for granted again!
A strangled yelp came from the hallway. "Yugi!" someone said angrily; Yugi didn't recognize the voice. Apprehensive, he poked his head outside…
A slim brown-skinned woman glared back at him. Her face, a perfect oval, was framed by wavy shoulder-length black hair, small mouth like a rose. Smooth curves led down her body to a pair of hips that strained against the fabric of her tight jeans; her shoes were loose on her feet. "I had hoped you would just tell me," Atem grumbled, squirming. "You didn't have to demonstrate!"