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Plum Blossom (Blue/Green)

[Yugioh] RE:Play, Part II. RE:Turn, Chapter Five

Posted on 2013.04.18 at 10:36
Current Mood: embarrassedembarrassed
Tags: , , ,
Beginning of this fanfiction is actually HERE. You will also find more fic intro notes there. As for this part, uh, nekkid boys alert? And...a lot of kissing and...stuff...? There probably are also a ton of mistakes which...I'll fix later. Eh.

RE:Play by Shiraume

[Written: 5/29/2009 - 12/31/2010]

II. RE:Turn
(Second part of RE:Turn.)

~*~*~*~


“...and Lady Isis further sends word that she will be keeping Lord Yuugi company for the rest of the day.” The attendant, who finished the message, waited for the response with his head bowed. Atem and Kaiba exchanged a look, then turned their eyes back on their messenger, who looked on the verge of fidgeting.

“Anything else? I’m sure she said more,” Atem prompted.

The attendant hesitated. “Divine One, I only speak the words put into my mouth,” he started uncertainly. Suspicion confirmed, Atem’s expression turned wry.

“Speak. You will not be punished.”

“Lady Isis bids me to tell you it is unlike you, my king, to be so inattentive to the needs of your guest, especially one who is also a dear friend. She further bids me to tell you, Lord Seth, that it is unfitting for someone of your station and learning to show discourtesy to a guest, and that she expected better from both of you.”

Kaiba twitched. Atem’s wry expression turned sour. “...I see. You may go.”

The attendant bowed deeply, and left in a hurry.

“I suppose we deserved that one,” Atem said, mostly to himself.

“That woman...” Kaiba scowled. “Her habit of interfering unnecessarily hasn’t changed.”

“But you remember that.” Atem’s eyes held him with an intensity that unnerved him, and Kaiba shrugged. “In case you still had doubts about this really being the past, Kaiba, there is no way I could have access to Seth’s memories.”

Kaiba did not answer. Yuugi was right, he acknowledged to himself with some reluctance. Even before, his outburst had been fueled by resentment at finding out his involvement with Atem – the past – still hadn’t ended. He’d never been one to live in the past. Yet ever since his life tangled with Yuugi, with his bright-eyed innocence and cursed Egyptian artifact and undead ancient pharaoh, it was as if every card in his hand was stolen and rearranged on a preset table in a rigged game.

This still was a rigged game, Kaiba decided with irritation coloring his thoughts. The only difference this time was that none of them even knew who the opponent was, let alone figure out the rules.

Atem – it was strangely easy to think of him that way now, with Seth’s memories so inextricably entwined in his mind – watched him with a familiar focus, and for a disorienting moment, Kaiba almost saw the image of a younger Atem superimposed over the present with the same expression. Like Seth was a puzzle Atem had to figure out or die trying. He wasn’t sure whose impulse it was, his or Seth’s, to meet Atem’s gaze with a look of his own, partly gauging and partly challenging. Atem’s gaze shifted to one that held defiance and a hint of irritation, exactly as Seth remembered, and Kaiba nearly choked on his tongue when another memory swirled past his thoughts.

“Kaiba?”

Not a good time to learn Seth used to find that look highly appealing and often provoked it on purpose, especially as the precocious nine-year-old brat Seth first met grew into a youth, with a lithe body and feline grace.

“If you have decided not to talk to me for the rest of our time here, it’s both childish and counterproductive—”

“Shut up,” Kaiba growled, pinching the bridge of his nose to stem the onset of another migraine. Whenever he tried to deliberately stop Seth’s memories from mingling with his own, the effort invariably gave him a headache that forced him to abandon all thinking process for a few minutes. “You’re not the one sorting through a jumble of memories trying to figure out which set belongs to you.”

To Kaiba’s surprise and no small relief, Atem did not speak again for a while. Finally feeling the pain behind his eyes retreat, Kaiba sighed and rubbed the spot between his eyes. While he was no stranger to periodic migraines (ah, the familiar companion of all CEOs), he never used to have them this often. He recalled the small bottle of pills kept in his briefcase along with his trusted laptop, and another bout of annoyance made him scowl. Yet another reason to resent his impromptu exile in this technology-deprived time and place.

“I’ll see if Mahaad can get you something for the headaches, shall I?” Atem asked, voice soft and pitched low. Like Atem needed to go easy on him. Like he, Kaiba Seto, needed the coddling. His scowl deepened, and Kaiba gave him a glare.

“Save it.”

Atem sighed, but did not pursue the point. “Like aibou said, our continued presence in the past means we run the risk of changing the sequence of events and affecting the future.”

“And how do you propose we get out of here?” Kaiba demanded with more belligerence than he felt, knowing he was acting unreasonable, but too tired to care. He had a life to live in the future, and a little brother to protect. Being stuck in this past life that should have ended 3,000 years ago was wearing on him. Hadn’t he – or Seth – already done his part in this debacle? “You said you don’t even know how we ended up here. Everything we could have used as a way back doesn’t even exist yet.”

“Do you have a better idea?” Atem wasn’t defensive anymore; Atem was angry. His eyes glittered, as hard as gemstones. “We don’t have a solution – yet. We will find it. Until we do, stick to something productive for a change. Shutting up would be a good start.”

Kaiba wasn’t sure when he’d crossed the room to grab Atem. It was only when Atem’s eyes narrowed with a clear warning that he realized he’d forgotten what he’d wanted to retort in reply.

“Let go,” Atem ordered, voice deathly quiet. The fury was an incandescent blaze in his eyes, drawing Kaiba. Seth’s memory was a sudden chill down his spine, that they were within each other’s strike zone, both armed and capable of killing. How could he have forgotten? In every lifetime, being around Yuugi? Atem? was never safe.

Tension coiled in Atem’s body like a cobra about to strike. And Kaiba tensed, ready for an attack. Just before the thread snapped, something shifted behind Atem’s gaze, and Atem relaxed, controlled and deliberate.

The two of them stared at each other. Slowly, Kaiba let go of him, and took a step back, and walked to the door. He made no hurried movement as he left the room.

Atem did not call him back.

~*~*~*~


After Kaiba left, Atem sat on his favorite chair, staring at a cartouche-shaped box bearing his name. His eyes took in the details of the gilded wood mechanically, without noticing any of the fine details of the carving that formed the characters of his name.

He wondered if Kaiba knew how close they came to killing each other. And it hadn’t even required magic or a Shadow Game.

Atem shivered.

The time he’d spent sealed with Zorc had left its mark on him. After he awoke in Yuugi’s body, when he was known simply as the Other Yuugi, for a time he’d used Yuugi’s body and the power of the Millennium Puzzle to judge those who trespassed against Yuugi and his loved ones without remorse. The judgment meted out using the Shadow Games was merciless and exacting, surely, but with a game that revealed the true nature of the judged, the punishment equaled the crime. Or so he thought. Yuugi’s disagreement had exasperated him at first. Life wasn’t so simple or easy that everyone could be saved, and sometimes, if there were several things at stake, one had to choose what was more important, and sacrifice the rest.

And so in the Duelist Kingdom, the last time he almost let loose, he’d nearly killed Kaiba then, too. The irony wasn’t lost to him. Back then, when he had allowed his fear of failure to blind him to all other possibilities, Yuugi had overrode the Other Yuugi’s choice with his own for the first time, unyielding in his belief nothing could justify taking a life no matter how great their need. And it wasn’t until Mai nearly wiped the duel ring with him in her first five moves that he was forced to reexamine himself, and admit his own weakness. He hadn’t been the strong one for being willing to kill than risk failure; Yuugi had been the strong one for seeing through his self-deception. Yuugi faced their defeat alone without blaming him, and by doing so taught him that without accepting the possibility of defeat, seeking victory was nothing but conceit. And finally, Yuugi had taught him that sometimes, his strength alone wasn’t enough, and he needed to rely on the strength of others around him to succeed.

He wasn’t the old Atem anymore, even though he’d claimed the name. In a lot of ways, regaining his memories had been more like a vague recognition from listening to a story he’d heard before rather than an instant certainty that these experiences were his and had formed the person he was. Mostly because they weren’t; the memories had shaped the person he used to be three millennia ago. The person he was now, wiser but hardened with experience, more edged, could see the naivety of his choice then, believing the sacrifice of his soul would be enough to seal away Zorc for good. Seth certainly hadn’t been quite so trusting, and had meticulously prepared the Millennium Items and the clues to Atem’s lost name and memories for the eventuality, not possibility, that Zorc would be free again one day. But at the time, Atem had lost both Mahaad and Siamun, who had looked after him since his childhood, as well as Karim and Shaada, and was just young enough to fear losing the remaining companions – Seth, Isis, and Mana – more than the consequences of his choice. And for Atem, who had been raised all of his sixteen years with the belief that it was his purpose and duty to protect his kingdom, it had been the only option, because the other choice was a drawn-out war with a near-hopeless outcome.

Could he, as he was now, make the same choice, knowing what he did? His memories from the time he’d shared with Yuugi were equally (if not more) important to him as his old memories. He’d said himself he wasn’t the Other Yuugi anymore, but he wasn’t just Atem anymore, either. If they were trapped here until all the events of the past played themselves out, would he be able to repeat the same choice he’d made 3,000 years ago?

On a less expected side, he had seriously underestimated how much being embodied would affect him. After being a spirit for such a long time, he’d forgotten the pleasure of a physical touch, the warmth of another person’s body. Here, he could reach out so easily to touch and be touched in return. After Yuugi succumbed to exhaustion during the pre-dawn hours this morning, Atem had stayed up to watch him, wondering at the softness of Yuugi’s hand entwined in his, and the ticklish sensation of Yuugi’s breath ghosting over his skin. Equally troubling was Yuugi’s newly developed tendency to stare when he thought Atem was unaware. At first, he’d dismissed those looks as curiosity or just novelty, since Yuugi had seen him in this appearance only briefly in the Memory World. But last night, it hadn’t been simple curiosity but attraction that shaded Yuugi’s eyes in a darker violet. And, like a fool, he’d allowed himself to grow intoxicated with it. Couldn’t resist flirting a little, just to see the attraction transmute to a spark of real desire. Mercifully, his senses came a-knocking at the last minute, reminding him their time together was ending soon, and such irresponsible frivolity on his part was inexcusable, not where Yuugi was involved.

Yet the temptation grew with each passing moment he spent in a physical body, truly living for the first time in 3,000 years. His own desire and need for physical touch had taken him by surprise, and he was having difficulty keeping those lidded. Before, when the two of them shared a body, Atem hadn’t been in control often enough to be affected by the normal teenage hormones. And physical needs had never been a part of his existence during his shared time with Yuugi. As for his feelings toward Yuugi, there was no simple way to describe the full spectrum of what he felt: admiration and affection, appreciation and a need to protect and care for Yuugi, trust, respect, and attraction to the kindness and courage that made his Yuugi’s soul shine with a rarest kind of brilliance – all of those were only shades of what he felt. Not exactly a romantic love, or simple friendship, or even familial love, yet possessing the qualities from all of them. During the time he was less than...complete, Yuugi had been what made up the rest of him, what he absorbed to learn about the world around him and evaluate his own place in it. So far, any physical touch they exchanged was nothing but platonic, if somewhat overly familiar. It wasn’t that he wanted to go further, necessarily, just that he wanted more of it. And that desire was powerful. Overwhelming even.

Atem covered his eyes with a groan. Here he was, indulging himself thinking about his feelings when their tomorrow – their very next moment – was uncertain. If Isis was escorting Yuugi, there was no immediate danger for him. And Kaiba was hardly helpless. Before he met up with either of them, he needed to figure out a few things, such as what the Thief King Bakura had been up to in the past week he’d been inactive. Since it looked as though they were stuck here for the time being, he should figure out Bakura’s next move. Once Bakura desecrated King Akhnamkanen’s tomb and visited the royal palace, it would be too late and the events would be spurred on to their inevitable conclusion.

Picking up first of the reports he’d had brought to his room earlier, Atem began reading.

~*~*~*~


“...The daily provisions are brought to here first, so they can be inspected, before they are stored in the storage cells you’ve seen before,” the storage master finished. Yuugi nodded, eyes wide as he absorbed the details like a dry sponge in water. Isis thanked the manager, who bowed and left.

“I know Mahaad didn’t show you these. And I thought it might interest you.” Yuugi beamed at her, and Isis felt an answer smile tug on her lips. Yuugi was easygoing and friendly, with healthy curiosity and a quick intelligence. It was nearing evening, and likely the pharaoh was anxious to have his beloved companion back. She was surprised he hadn’t sent for Yuugi already, but guessed her messenger this time had been a brave one and relayed her full message.

“Um, I think she’s here to see you,” Yuugi said, looking in the direction of the woman who had been with Isis when they met earlier.

“Please excuse me for a moment. And I will escort you back to the pharaoh’s chambers after I see to this.” Yuugi nodded, and Isis crossed the courtyard, making sure Yuugi was still in her full view while he walked around looking at the carts and the workers busily unloading fresh vegetables, fruits, and fish. Yuugi, left on his own for the first time in the day, looked around, curious to learn more. When he rounded another cart unloading fresh fruits, he heard familiar voices, and nearly jumped out of his skin.

“—to see you here. I thought you’d be too busy counting your newest wife’s money,” retorted Anzu –no, Anenut – acidly. “A wealthy landowner’s daughter, I hear. No doubt those fruits are from her father’s orchards. I see you’ve joined those eager fools begging the royal favor in exchange for gifts.” Yuugi carefully kept the cart between himself and the voice while he peeked; he’d heard another familiar voice that was talking to Anenut. His mouth opened soundlessly when he caught the sight of Anenut and...Otogi?

“And I thought being crude was beneath a lady’s noble dignity,” Otogi retorted right back. “Like your exploits in the palace aren’t equally notorious, Lady Anenut? You’re hardly in a position to criticize me for my personal life, when you try so hard to attract the attention of any man with position and power. You’ve gained quite a name for yourself lately. They say you are for anyone with the right coin.”

“How dare you.” Anenut whispered, and there was something raw under the flimsy veil of anger. Otogi seemed to catch on to it, and softened.

“My words were harsh.” His words were an apology, but Anenut did not deign to respond, and Otogi sighed. “Can’t we be friends again, An? I’m tired of fighting every time we meet.”

Anenut’s expression tightened with something other than the anger she’d been holding like a shield before her, but her reply dripped with venom. “You were the one who broke off our engagement, Ottah.”

Otogi – Ottah? – opened his mouth to reply, but a shuttered look covered his face before Anenut could see the pained expression for what it was, setting his jaw firmly. “I am but a poor merchant’s son. Surely your parents were glad to be rid of such a disadvantageous match.”

“Oh, I’m sure you had the best wishes for my happiness when you publicly humiliated me! You called it off a week before our wedding!” Anenut hissed, her face livid. However, Yuugi was well-versed with Anzu’s expression enough to pick out the hints of pain in Anenut’s expression. Ottah did not, and narrowed his eyes with a close-held fury of his own.

“Whatever happiness you seek, I’m sure being a lowly toymaker’s wife would never have been it, my lady, so if you will excuse me, I still have a delivery cart to unload before I return home. I bid you good day.”

Anenut stood trembling for a moment after Ottah pointedly turned his back and left. For a moment, she looked like Anzu sometimes did when she was fighting her tears and losing, but she bit down hard enough to make teeth mark on her luscious lower lip instead. When she lifted her head again, there was only cold look of determination in her eyes. Back straight and head held high, Anenut spun on her heel and headed back towards the inner court of the palace.

Yuugi watched her disappear with mixed feelings. Before, her likeness to Anzu appeared only skin-deep, with only an opportunistic, haughty schemer underneath. It was easy to dismiss her then. But what if there was more to her than that? No matter what she said in words, Anenut was hurt, perhaps even heartbroken, that Ottah broke up with her. And she hid her true feelings with the ease of someone who had her reasons and a good share of the practice. So did Ottah, come to think of it. Whatever their stories, maybe their true natures weren’t so different from their counterparts in Yuugi’s time. After all, Isis and Siamun hadn’t been. Had he simply never bothered to find out, bitter with disappointment that Anenut wasn’t Anzu and never could be?

“I’m sorry it took so long, Yuugi. Ready to go back?” Isis said from a few paces behind him.

“Sure. And thanks for showing me around.” Isis had been kind to him from the beginning, like an older sister. Ishizu, though more reserved, shared the same warmth and dedication to those she cared about. Trusting her required no effort at all, especially when Isis returned his smile with affection.

“Not at all. If the pharaoh grants permission, I’ll see if we can show you around the city as well. Shall we?”

~*~*~*~


“You had a fight with him right after I left?” Yuugi asked incredulously, and Atem winced. “I can’t believe you two. We’ve established this really is the past, and every moment counts.”

“Sorry, aibou.” He left it at that, despite the nagging urge to point out it had been Kaiba’s fault. Mostly.

Yuugi’s frown melted to an understanding look. “We’re all stressed out by the situation. And I know how Kaiba-kun can be, so I can guess. But we really have to talk about this together later, okay?”

“Right.”

“So...what have you been up to?” Yuugi unsuccessfully fought a yawn. He’d barely slept the night before, and their trip to Kur-Elna had left him aching in places he’d never known could ache before. He wasn’t feeling up to bringing up Anenut yet, so he perched on a low chair, his chin resting on propped knees. “You were looking at scrolls before I came in.”

Atem held back a smile at the huge yawn that split Yuugi’s face. After all that happened yesterday and today, Yuugi must be feeling exhausted. To be honest, so was he. “I was reading the reports on Bakura’s recent movement. Assuming the bandit from a week ago was him. So far, he hasn’t made single appearance since that time, but he wasn’t seen near the royal tombs, either. I don’t know what he’s up to.”

Yuugi’s eyes were closed, his tone turning a bit fuzzy at the edges. “And we don’t want to be still around when he shows up at the palace?”

“Exactly. If we’re stuck here for a while, I thought we should figure out his movements, so we can anticipate when he might strike.”

“Yeah, good—” Another yawn interrupted him. “—Call.”

“Shall we make it an early night? We’ve had a really long day.”

“And how,” Yuugi murmured, a grin curving his mouth. He kept his eyes closed, and Atem doubted Yuugi’d stay awake for long. “Bed?”

“Bed ,” Atem agreed. There were other things he’d planned to tell Yuugi, but it seemed those would have to be saved for another day. At least, he was reasonably sure there would be another day here.

Yuugi let himself be towed along, and let Atem put him to bed with minimal fuss, too tired to protest. Even as Atem tucked a light linen sheet around him, Yuugi was falling asleep, murmuring him a sleepy goodnight. Atem chuckled and kissed his forehead, the same way Yuugi had done it to him the night before, and settled down for the night himself. After a moment’s thought, he reached out to take Yuugi’s hand in his own.

“Good night, aibou.”

~*~*~*~


“So, in short, this is actually your ceremonial bath for religious purposes.”

“It’s the biggest bath in the palace. Unless you’d rather use the sacred lake,” Atem pointed out, all reason and practical purpose.

“A bath only you’re supposed to use. For purification rituals,” Yuugi tried again, and did not get so much as a shrug in his direction. Yuugi was tempted to try poking Atem, but restrained himself. “And we’re breaking about a gazillion rules taking a non-ritual bath here? For fun?” he finished, his tone a bit more pointed.

“Right,” Atem agreed cheerfully, not looking the slightest bit concerned. “Didn’t you say you want a proper bath for once?”

He had. The regular method of washing here involved being doused with water by a servant, which was both embarrassing and not terribly pleasant for Yuugi, who was used to bathing in bathtubs. And the lure of water, perfumed with oil and fresh flowers, was tempting. Yuugi swallowed, feeling self-conscious about the way Atem was undressing right in front of him with a noticeable lack of concern, and for a moment he debated backing out of the plan altogether. The bath really wasn’t that big, though twice as big and deeper compared to the bathtub at home, and they’d end up sitting right next to each other once inside. Never mind they’d shared a body for two years. Sleeping in the same room was one thing, but taking a bath together—

“Are you going to join me, aibou?”

...And Atem was already in the bath, standing waist-deep in the water with a questioning tilt of his eyebrow. Yuugi flushed, and cursed his pale complexion that gave him away in an instant. In the past four days he’d spent here, Yuugi had developed a nice tan, but not enough to hide his fiercer blushes. It was just a bath, Yuugi reminded himself sternly. It was no big deal. Hell, he’d gone to public baths with Jounouchi and Honda before. It shouldn’t be any different.

Gathering his courage, Yuugi chucked his clothing as quickly as possible and dove in the water.

“It’s not warm,” Yuugi commented, a bit startled. Then again, a hot bath would be ill-suited for Egypt’s climate. Atem chuckled, probably guessing what was going through Yuugi’s mind.

“No, but I didn’t think you’d appreciate a hot bath in this weather.”

Yuugi gulped, and sank down until he was neck-deep in the water. Actually, the cool water felt kind of nice, and it smelled good. After groping under the water for a moment, he found the hard stone edge he was searching for, and waded closer to sit down next to Atem. Given the baths like these were ceremonial and weren’t actually meant for the bather to sit immersed in the water, Atem had shown his usual ingenuity and improvised with a low stone table for them to sit on.

Of course, it also put them in rather close quarters, but Yuugi was determined to not think about that.

“This is one thing I miss from the modern world.” Atem’s eyes were half-closed, leaning back on his hands with a sigh. “Running hot water in the bathtubs.”

“Not the comfy bed?” Yuugi couldn’t help teasing. Atem opened one eye and lifted a brow. “Because I do.”

Atem chuckled softly. “Maybe the bed, too. And the A/C in your room.”

The admission made Yuugi laugh as well; to be honest, he’d been missing the modern air conditioning himself. He wondered how Kaiba was getting on. “I wonder how Kaiba-kun is doing,” he mused out loud.

Atem made a noncommittal sound.

“I haven’t seen him in three days,” Yuugi continued. “Do you think he’s avoiding us?”

“Mm.” Not even a twitch of an eyelid.

“Are you avoiding him?” Atem turned to him with a Look, which Yuugi answered with one of his own.

“I can’t help it if he’d rather not speak to either of us,” Atem said with simulated nonchalance. Yuugi smiled; the undertone of Atem’s annoyance was clear. So Atem had noticed, and it bothered him, too.

“We’re going to have to talk to him, you realize.” Atem made another noncommittal sound. “Other Me, we’re here together for a reason, right? Remember how we said we’d need to work together to go back?” This time Atem didn’t respond at all, and Yuugi, half frustrated and half amused by the rare show of petulance, reached for his hand underwater. “Other Me?”

Atem started under his hand, and Yuugi belatedly realized he’d brushed Atem’s ribs before reaching his elbow. It only took him a moment to relax again, so Yuugi tugged at the elbow again, wondering why Atem was being stubborn about this. Usually, Atem was pragmatic to a fault, and relentless when there was something to be done. This newfound childlike obduracy was actually endearing, in a way. But then again, Yuugi admitted to himself, Atem would have to make real effort to displease him. So he kept his hand gentle as he slid it up to Atem’s shoulder and nudged.

“Other Meeeeeeee,” Yuugi wheedled, and nearly forgot his original purpose when Atem leaned into his touch. When they’d shared a body, Atem had never been demonstrative. Being back in his old body seemed to have made him a few thousand times more tactile, and Atem’s newly gained tendency to touch him at odd moments or taking his hand both pleased and flustered him. Mostly pleased him, truth be told, but the novelty hadn’t worn off just yet. Fascinated by the feel of warm, smooth skin, Yuugi moved his hand up to knead Atem’s shoulder and neck, smiling when Atem relaxed even more under his touch. Yuugi shifted on his perch so he could reach with both hands, giving Atem an impromptu backrub, delighted when Atem made a pleased sound and leaned back.

Yuugi was loath to destroy the moment by talking, but his conscience was beginning to kick him in the rear. “We still have to talk to Kaiba-kun,” he whispered in Atem’s ear, and almost laughed when Atem twitched. “Or I’ll have no choice but to wander around the palace looking for him. But who knows when I’ll be ambushed by Anenut?”

That got a reaction. “I could have her banned from the palace,” Atem said in a low voice that didn’t sound much like a joke. Yuugi patted him on one shoulder, continuing his massage.

“No, no, I just wish she wouldn’t...you know.”

“Circle around you like a starved crocodile?” Atem’s voice held a smile, and Yuugi bumped his head with Atem’s in a gentle admonition. “It’s not like I remember her that well, but I really didn’t notice her resemblance to Anzu until you pointed it out to me.”

“Well, if you were the old Atem, you wouldn’t have, since you wouldn’t have met Anzu until 3,000 years later. I think.”

“Ah yes, the time paradox.” A pause. “Still, she is so...different. Maybe the resemblance is just coincidence. Anzu was never that...” Atem searched for a word, and failed.

“Obsessed with social ladder climbing?” Yuugi supplied, and received an affirmative hum. “No, she wasn’t. But I think there’s more to Anenut than that. She and Anzu have lived completely different lives. And you said yourself experiences shape people.”

“Mm.” Atem’s eyes were closed again, body lax in Yuugi’s hand, and Yuugi flushed when he realized his hands were now more caressing than massaging, running over the warm, sleek skin of Atem’s back. Atem didn’t seem to notice, and in fact, he was leaning progressively closer to Yuugi, almost on the verge of falling back into Yuugi’s arms. It was...strange, to see Atem so relaxed around him.

“Other Me,” Yuugi started, half in protest when Atem finally fell back against him completely, leaning his head on Yuugi’s shoulder. Atem made a dismissive noise, burrowing deeper into Yuugi’s neck, and Yuugi nearly fell over himself, suddenly feeling too weak to support both their weight. Quickly, Yuugi shifted to a more secure position.

And realized the new position put Atem between his legs, practically cradled in his arms.

It took a few tries before Yuugi could find his voice again. “If you fall asleep, I’m going to leave you here.” He’d meant to sound stern, but it came out more breathless, and Yuugi’s color deepened.

Atem, for his part, only settled closer. “Stay,” he said softly, pulling Yuugi’s arms around him and folding his own over them.

His throat was so dry, it felt parched, and Yuugi swallowed several times. “Atem.”

“First time.” Yuugi made a questioning sound. “It’s the first time you’ve called me that since coming here,” Atem clarified.

Yuugi searched his memory, and was startled to find Atem was right. Ever since their unexpected reunion, he’d unconsciously lapsed back to calling Atem “Other Me.” Perhaps a carryover from the time he’d called Atem that, when Atem’s true name was unknown. Or perhaps from that time, when Yuugi realized Atem would soon leave him, and wished Atem would remain his Other Self just a little longer.

“Does it bother you?”

Atem stirred languidly in Yuugi’s arms. “No . I was the Other Yuugi for the two years I shared with you. Regaining my name doesn’t erase the time I’ve spent as the Other Yuugi.”

Or maybe, it was that as Atem, he was the pharaoh of Egypt. As the Other Yuugi, he was Yuugi’s Other Self. The possessiveness of his own thoughts surprised him. Despite his crush on Anzu spanning over two years, he’d never harbored such proprietary feelings about her. Unconsciously, his arms tightened around Atem, eliciting a soft, questioning sound from him.

“Aibou...?”

Partner. Equal. A pair sharing the same burden. That had been what Atem called him since they went through the Duelist Kingdom together. “My Other Self,” Yuugi murmured back, lips nearly brushing against Atem’s temple as he spoke. Atem’s eyelashes fell to half-mast, making an indistinct sound in his throat that could have been an agreement, pleasure, or both. Like a needle to a magnet, Atem turned in Yuugi’s arms, craning his head back to face him properly. Slowly, Yuugi closed the last sliver of the distance between their lips.

Yuugi wasn’t sure who’d let out the quiet moan when their lips met. Then, Atem pulled back enough to pull Yuugi’s lower lip between his own, and this time, the short whimper was definitely from Yuugi. One of Yuugi’s hand rose to cup the side of Atem’s neck, and their lips brushed together again in the softest of touch, like the whisper of silk against skin. Atem’s hand sought out his with a desperation his lips did not share, and Yuugi reached back with his other hand, lacing their fingers in a tight grip. Atem’s free hand cupped Yuugi’s own, holding it pressed to his skin.

Their lips moved together lazily, in a light and lingering contact that nevertheless did not break. Atem’s breath was warm on his skin, and Yuugi shivered, hand tightening, then sliding down to Atem’s shoulder, tracing the collarbone down to press over his heart with exquisite slowness. Was his own heart racing as quickly as Atem’s? It was the first time he was able to listen to Atem’s heartbeat like this, separate from his own, pulsing under his palm. A moment later, Atem’s hand covered his, holding it in place. Atem’s lips curved for a moment, then parted to nibble on Yuugi’s lip with slightest hint of teeth, and Yuugi let out a noise distressingly similar to a kitten’s, but he was too distracted to care. Experimentally, Yuugi tried returning the favor, tugging at Atem’s upper lip playfully, and was rewarded by the sound of Atem’s breathing becoming more ragged.

Realizing Atem was on the verge of sliding off the table they were using for a makeshift bench, Yuugi stopped long enough to move his hand down to Atem’s waist, urging him back up until they were secure. Atem complied easily, but not before stealing another kiss. Their equal height put them at an awkward angle, however, and Atem solved the short dilemma by twisting to his side and arching his back, with a palm caressing Yuugi’s jaw to coax him back into another kiss. Yuugi obliged him, keeping Atem anchored with an arm around his waist. Atem’s other hand was resting on top of his thigh, warmth spreading from the contact, and if his mind weren’t otherwise occupied with the electric sensation of Atem’s hand on his skin, Yuugi would have been mortified. But to the way Atem simply settled against him, eyelashes fluttering open to reveal eyes more happy and open than he’d ever seen him, there was no other response Yuugi could give except to brush the side of Atem’s throat with a reverent joy.

Yuugi wasn’t so young or naïve that he failed to recognize the desire burning between them. But it was a sweet sort of ache; not overpowering, not urgent, but more tantalizing because they both felt it and delighted in it without needing to satisfy it and end the sweetness of longing. With a final, lingering kiss, Atem relaxed and leaned against Yuugi, trusting him to support them both. It made Yuugi’s heart skip a beat, understanding the trust implicit in that gesture, of surrendering his body to Yuugi’s care. Slowly, Yuugi reached for Atem’s hand and stroked it, making love to the callused but soft skin with touch alone. Atem stirred but did not move, letting Yuugi draw endless patterns on his palm with patience that surprised both of them. Slowly, Yuugi lifted the lax hand out of the water, and pressed it to his lips.

A soft sigh left Atem. Their hands curled together, cradling the warmth between their palms, a pleasant contrast to the cool water. Neither of them spoke.

Yuugi bowed his head until their foreheads touched, his eyes sliding closed. They remained like that for a long time.

~*~*~*~


Notes: I’ve tried to keep everything as historically accurate as possible, with my admittedly limited means. The cartouche-shaped box with Atem’s name is inspired by this one, which bears Tutankhamun’s name. As for the whole thing with ancient Egyptian baths – well, they didn’t actually take immersive baths until much later. The kind of luxurious baths we see in Cleopatra movies wouldn’t have been a regular feature during Middle Kingdom or even the New Kingdom. I’ve set Atem’s timeline to roughly coincide with Tutankhamun’s for several reasons (which I will explain later), and during that time only the priests would have taken immersive baths, and for purification rituals. The description of the bath is partly based on information found here.

Crossposted at http://shiraume-fic.dreamwidth.org/26599.html.

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