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Seto Kaiba did not take defeat lightly. The same could be said for rejection, but since his current paramour had not rejected him due to them not knowing his intentions, he was forced to go back to the drawing board in order to understand where each attempt went wrong, and how to prevent any further blunders. Mistakes cost money after all.

The first attempt occurred on March 14th at 18:12PM. In his defense, the idea seemed fool proof. The meaning of the date, White Day, too romantic and oversold for his tastes, the content of the gift, imported chocolates with the image of the Dark Magician printed on a few, and a five foot tall Little Kuriboh plush that was soft enough to be a bed in itself, as well as the card simple in that it was the size of a business card with his initials showing who the sender was. Yugi couldn't be that stupid. Kaiba expected that level of obliviousness from the dork squad, but not from the man holding the title of king of games.

Reason for failure?

Atem.

The bastard just couldn't stay dead. No, the gods had to give him another shot at life seeing as how his had originally been cut short due to a megalomaniac who probably had good reasons to want to watch the fall of an empire. Yet, that was neither here nor there. Who was Kaiba to debate ancient Egyptian politics without an audience to piss off?

To remain on topic, Atem had seen the delivery before Yugi had and rationalized an entire story of why Kaiba would send such things on white day. First to congratulate Yugi on his last temporary out of retirement tournament win, of which Kaiba didn't even think about. Second, that Kaiba was much too busy to remember the significance of dates and probably didn't even celebrate holidays, which was also marginally true. The only holidays he celebrated was Mokubas' birthday willingly, and his own birthday unwillingly. The final nail in the coffin was that if Kaiba was really interested in dating Yugi, wouldn't he be much more dramatic about it? Which was more than insulting, but based on Kaiba's track record, he could see the reasoning behind the accusation.

Therefore, when the time came to confront Yugi, all he received was the usual politeness without a hint of shyness that he'd planned to capitalize on and the smug look of Atem from behind the counter.

First attempt at traditional romance?

Abject failure.

Now the second attempt. He'd gone for the more dramatic. Lifetime pass to Kaiba Land. Done. Invitation to meet him at Kaiba Land on a specific date at a specific time wherein there would not only be a watershow dedicated to conducting a story of two rivals turned to lovers from a series of mishaps and untangling misunderstandings but an entire fireworks display would spell out at the end asking Yugi on a date and from there Kaiba would verbally repeat the phrasing once they were hidden away from the masses.

Reason for failure?

Atem.

Someone just so happened to get sick on the exact day of the meeting. Not just a cold sick, but the "I need someone here to take care of me sick" which Kaiba knew was over exaggerated because after canceling the last fireworks display as not to embarrass himself, he'd come into Kame Game Shop the very next day to see Atem stocking shelves as if nothing was wrong. His guess at the purposed sabotage was solidified upon seeing Atems smirking face again while Yugi came from the back to apologize for missing the event. Apparently, Atem couldn't even walk to the bathroom by himself so maybe those non-native viruses hit him harder than most. Kaiba wanted to send Atem back to the grave in those moments, but instead reassured Yugi they could rearrange another meeting since Atem's health was so delicate.

Second attempt with dramatic romance?

Abject failure.

Third time's the charm is what people say because four is a very unlucky number. Despite Kaiba having a loud personality either depicted through his thorough business sense or his wardrobe, Yugi was quieter unless on the field for a game. So, Kaiba decided to attempt a quiet approach. Something that wouldn't catch Atem's attention, so he would be successful. He knew from his last invite, that Atem would do everything in his power to prevent Yugi from coming alone. Therefore, a sacrifice needed to be made which happened to be Kaiba's sanctuary by encouraging Mokuba to invite the geek squad over for a game night. Kaiba mansion had been demolished, burned, and then planted with native wildlife to prevent anyone from ever building anything on that plot again. Instead, the brothers lived in a more modest 12 bedroom home which did possess a basement arcade both for fun and for private beta testing.

Yugi and his friends were impressed. As they should’ve been. All Kaiba needed to do was make sure Atem was distracted enough for him to take Yugi aside for a tour of his home, a walk through the gardens, and once they were seated in the center of the hedge maze, Kaiba would ask so if on the extremely impossible chance he got rejected, no one would ever know.

Reason for failure?

Mokuba as encouraged by Atem.

Apparently everything would be more fun if done as either a group, in pairs, or split into smaller groups for mini competitions. Mokuba possessing the same competitive streak as his brother, couldn't turn down such an inane tournament style that Atem encouraged making sure to pair with Yugi or have Yugi pair with anyone else other than Kaiba. He wasn't so heartless anymore as to ruin his brother's fun, but by the time the energy of the event died down it was late and time for people to return home. Mokuba raved about how they should do something like that again while inviting his own friends from school too, and Kaiba gave him a non answer that Mokuba always took as affirmation.

He didn't hide his glares towards Atem the entire evening, but the smirks he got in return only fueled his desire to win whenever possible as vengeance.

Third attempt with the quiet and forward approach?

Abject failure.

The fourth attempt Kaiba refused to even think too much on. What made him think a circus was a good idea? It wasn't. Then there was the murder attempt by someone sneaking in as a clown, and he was very lucky no one needed to go to the hospital.

There was a reason the number four was unlucky, and he'd not test his luck again.

Yes, all these attempts had led nowhere and it was all Atem's fault. Except for the clown, but since those two still did weird magic shit who was to say Atem wasn't behind that either. It would explain why no one got seriously hurt.

Fuck it. He was Seto Kaiba. Some supposed to be dead pharaoh wasn't going to keep ruining his chances before he even knew if there was a possibility of being with Yugi.

It was time for the direct approach.

Kaiba cleared his schedule for the next two hours, and grabbed his briefcase as he headed to the elevator. His secretary gave him a nod upon seeing the notification for his change in schedule, and reminded him of his 6PM meeting he should be back in time for.

Now he just needed to not have Atem screw this up.

 


 

Atem knew he was doing nothing wrong. He was off the clock today, so he wore the soft red blouse with sheer puffy sleeves that cuffed at his wrists and revealed a large expanse of his back and the tops of his shoulders with gold trim around the circles. The off white pants that didn't cling, but hugged his thighs nicely set the whole outfit off. He even watched Jounouchi blush as they made eye contact.

"Woah Atem, what's got you all dressed up?" Jounouchi asked as he leaned against the display counter.

"No particular reason. I just had tickets to see the latest Godzilla movie, but it seems Yugi can't make it." Atem made sure to purse his lips into a pout before he turned and stretched to move something across the shelf emphasizing his assets. "And I don't know anyone who's free at 8:30 tonight."

That was a lie. He knew Jounouchi had taken the morning shift, so he was free all evening with no university obligations. Thank you, Anzu.

"You got tickets to the new Godzilla movie?!"

"Yes, they were running out fast. It doesn't help that they have that extra large popcorn bucket with the limited edition figure for the showings. Probably being scalped by collectors." Atem turned around and sighed as he curled a loose strand of hair around his finger. "But I suppose that'll be money wasted. I'll have to go all by myself."

"Nonsense! I'm free tonight."

"You are?"

"Yeah! I'd love to go with ya to see that movie, Atem. If ya don't mind that is."

"I don't mind at all," Atem leaned an elbow onto the counter and rested his cheek in his hand. Time to go in for the kill. Fluttering his eyelashes, he said, "It's almost like a date."

Jounouchi laughed in response, making Atem's smoulder faulter only slightly.

"Sure Atem, kinda like a date. No homo, right?"

Atem's expression went from flirtatious to bored as he repeated the accursed internet phrase, "Ah, yes. No homo, of course."

Jounouchi grinned and gave Atem a friendly slap on the shoulder as he said, "See ya tonight!"

Kaiba stepped out of the way before he could get barreled over by Jounouchi's exit. They were no longer at each other's throats, but Jounouchi did give him a nod and a wave as he passed by which Kaiba returned with a nod of his own. Distant but amicable was as good as those two were going to get when games weren't involved.

Atem rolled his eyes at the smug look Kaiba gave him and said, "If you're looking for Yugi, he's off buying dinner for the night."

"That can wait." Kaiba raised an eyebrow, "But Jounouchi? Really?"

"That's none of your business, Kaiba."

"After that pathetic display, I'd say it's the business of the whole neighborhood."

"Stay out of it."

"I had no intention to stick my foot in your mess, pharaoh. However, I know an opportunity when I see one."

Atem crossed his arms over his chest, a pose more imposing than protective as he stared Kaiba down. It wasn't enough that the bastard was trying to woo Yugi into his bed, but Atem refused to be mocked for what was supposed to be top tier flirting. It'd worked on everyone else he'd tried it with except for Jounouchi. Maybe Yugi was right. Maybe he is straight.

"Atem."

Atem turned to his side and furrowed his brow in annoyance.

"I know you've been sabotaging my attempts to get Yugi's attention, and I can only tolerate so much."

"You don't deserve him."

"That's not for you to decide."

It was true, but Atem did have protection rights over Yugi after all they'd been through. "I'm not going to stop until you prove yourself worthy."

It was Kaiba's turn to roll his eyes as he said, "With your standards for yourself being significantly lower than the one you hold for others, I doubt I'd meet your expectations, and I have no intention to. Instead, I can offer you a deal."

"There's nothing you have that I want, Kaiba."

"You want Jounouchi."

"So? You two aren't even friends. I know there's nothing you can do about that."

Kaiba smirked, "On the contrary. I'm well aware of that no homo phrase. Mokubas' friends went about throwing it back and forth until they were given a long lecture from my secretary about appropriateness, homophobia, and social politeness."

"So what? You're going to send Jounouchi to your secretary?"

"No, but I do have enough online influence to make the phrase obsolete. And, perhaps, I can even give you an opportunity to get Jounouchi's attention so he knows exactly what you're after."

Atem narrowed his eyes, "In exchange for what?"

"You stop sabotaging me so I can ask Yugi out."

With a grimace, Atem turned so his back faced Kaiba. He couldn't do that. He needed to protect Yugi from people who would take advantage, and Kaiba had proven time and time again that he utilizes every opportunity until it's no longer useful to him. Atem refused to let Yugi fall for a man that would throw him away as soon as he'd satisfied his own curiosity. Especially not for the sake of a real date with Jounouchi. He'd figure it out on his own without help.

"Don't answer now. I'll be back in tomorrow to hear all about your not date."

The bell above the door rang signaling Kaiba's exit leaving Atem with his thoughts. He'd prove to Kaiba he didn't need the other man's help. Jounouchi would be his by the end of the night, and that damned no homo phrase would become an obsolete facet of his vocabulary. He would just have to lay on the charm as thick as possible.

 


 

Atem didn't change because his outfit was already stunning, but he did pull his hair back into a ponytail leaving his blonde bangs to hang in front. He also made the wings of his eyeliner sharp and wore a nude lip gloss because a little extra shine couldn't hurt.

"Yugi, what train should I take to get to the theater before the movie?" He asked his partner.

Yugi was focused on playing some mobile game when he looked up to meet Atem's eyes in the mirror. "Uh, I think the 7:45 will get you there in thirty minutes. It's too late to catch the 7:20."

"Right. Thank you," Atem grabbed his side bag and dashed down the stairs with a, "Don't wait up for me!"

"Good luck!"

Atem did bolt down the stairs to catch the train on time, but he'd made it to the right station and refilled his card prior to leaving without getting any of the lettering mixed up.

The movie theater was more packed than he expected this late, but he didn't have to wait long before spotting Jounouchi in his well loved black leather jacket. It was a graduation gift from Honda to match his favorite card, and Jounouchi claimed it was good luck when he got a winning streak his first week wearing it. Now it was a trademark and a sign of comfort.

"Hey, sorry I'm late," Jounouchi rubbed the back of his neck with a smile. "A second later to catch the train and I'd have been meeting you in the middle of the movie."

"Thank goodness you were right on time. Snacks?"

"Sure, you buying?"

Atem paused before starting to pull out his wallet.

"I'm kidding! Put that away. Ya already bought the tickets, the least I can do is pay for the food. Come on."

Atem didn't see much on the menu he wanted, but he did note they sold crepes now, and he was sure Yugi would be very interested to try them. They settled for the Godzilla bucket of popcorn, half salt, half white cheddar black pepper, as well as a hot dog for Jounouchi and two medium drinks. The Godzilla figure the bucket came with wasn't even that impressive, but they had a back and forth with who should take it home as they stood in line waiting for their tickets to get taken.

"Really Jounouchi, I think you should take it. We have enough figures in the shop."

"Yeah, but you paid more than me to get the tickets. It should be yours by right."

Fortunately, each ticket came with fold out promotional poster which were given after their tickets were torn and since each one was different, Atem was able to convince his friend to take the figure while he took both posters in exchange.

Once they were seated and the movie began, Atem laid out his plan in his head. Playing damsel in distress would not only make Jounouchi feel obligated to comfort him, but the power trip to his masculinity would give Atem the opportunity to be bold about his approach. It wouldn't take much. He didn't care much for the noise of the theater anyway, and the armrest between them was narrow. Not to mention someone switched the air conditioning to the highest setting in there, and Atem was still wearing a shirt with three gaping holes in it.

The trailers rolled, popcorn was eaten, and thanks to the music, Atem managed to time his jumps when Godzilla appeared to surprise the masses.

"You okay there?" Jounouchi's whispered breath was hot against Atem's ear making him shiver.

"It's a bit scary," Atem waited a beat to add, "And I'm a little cold."

"Don't worry, your good pal Jou's got ya."

Atem did an internal jump for joy when Jounouchi's arm came around his shoulders and pulled him into his side. Eat shit, Kaiba! He knew his flirting wasn't going to waste. Atem was taught to be a genius back in Egypt so such things was child's play even now.

“No homo, eh buddy?” Jounouchi said with a small squeeze of Atem’s shoulders.

Nevermind. Never fucking mind.

Atem tried to relax and pay attention, but the weight on his shoulders was distracting. At some point, Jounouchi shifted to set the empty popcorn bucket down, but he tucked Atem right against his side again asking if he was all right. Atem nodded thinking he could get used to this. The preferential treatment. The scent of Jounouchi and the warmth of his closeness was almost like a cocoon he was eager to curl up in. He failed to pay attention to the climax hurling towards the end of the movie, but he did grin when he felt a heavy weight on top of his head. Even Jounouchi couldn't pretend this outright cuddling was only friendship.

When the credits rolled and the lights turned up, people began to leave the theater, but neither Jounouchi nor Atem bugded from their seats. Well, now was a good a time as any before the cleaning staff came in.

"Katsuya?"

He got a small groan? Huff? In response.

This was it. Atem placed a hand on Jounouchi's knee, "Katsuya, there's something I must confess. Ever since duelists kingdom, I've felt this sort of... connection with-"

A loud snore interrupted his spiel.

Shocked, Atem pulled himself out from under Jounouchi to see his friend dead asleep.

It took every ounce of willpower not to summon dark spirits in anger as he calmed himself down enough to shake his friend awake.

"Hmph? What!? Huh?" Jounouchi shook his head before he seemed to get his bearings and stretched his arms up while letting out a yawn. "Dang. Movie's over already?"

"You fell asleep before the credits."

"I did? Shit. Maybe those all night study sessions are doing more harm than good. Was it at least decent?"

Atem couldn't recall the ending himself. "Yes. I hope they make another sequel."

Jounouchi grinned at him, and really Atem wanted to be pissed but he couldn't. Not when Jounouchi looked so cute. There was another way to salvage the night though.

"Dinner?" Atem asked as he stood from his seat.

Jounouchi followed suit. "Sorry Atem, but I'm picking up another morning shift tomorrow. Gotta be up at 4."

"That's too bad, but I know you're a hard worker, Jounouchi. I'm proud of you."

Jounouchi wiped under his nose with a grin as they passed by the cleaning staff after tossing their trash. "Ain't nothin too hard for me to handle. Will you be all right getting back by yourself?"

"If I miss the train, I have enough for a taxi. It's the one benefit that comes from working for Kaiba."

"Better you than me." Jounouchi gave Atem another hard clap on the shoulder, "See ya buddy!"

Atem watched him dash towards the subway station with a wave, but began grumbling on his way to the train station. This wasn't fair. Atem knew he was a catch. He had a good job, astounding communication skills, amazing looks, a perky butt, and he was short enough as not to risk emasculating Jounochi by accident, so what was the deal? He didn’t stop grumbling until he was opening the door to his shared bedroom with Yugi. Said bedroom occupant was now sitting curled up on the bottom bunk while tapping away at his tablet.

Atem sighed and earned no response. Shutting the door, he sighed even louder and more dramatically. Yugi didn’t even flinch. Not wanting to be ignored, Atem tossed his bag onto the bed before throwing himself onto his partner to say “OH YUGI IM SO LONELY.”

Yugi, used to Atem’s antics by, managed to move his tablet in time from where Atem flung himself to rest across his stomach. “Date didn’t go well?”

“He wrapped his arm around me when I told him I was scared and cold,” Atem wrapped his arms around Yugi’s waist so he could press his cheek against his chest.

“Mmhm.”

“And he smelled so nice.”

“That’s usually what happens when you spend half your day at a bakery.”

Atem rearranged himself so he was lying between Yugi’s open legs now, “Suddenly as the movie climax came on, his head fell to rest atop mine. I was sure he was cuddling me as he should.”

“Yeah?”

“We even stayed like that until the theater emptied!”

Oh?” Yugi had moved his tablet aside now giving Atem his full attention.

“And when I placed my hand so sensually upon his knee and began to confess he SNORED!”

Yugi giggled so hard he nearly dropped his tablet as the vibrations caused Atem to jostle his hold around his waist.” He fell asleep!”

“He fell asleep, Yugi.” Atem whined, “Pity me.”

“There, there,” Yugi was still giggling as he patted Atem’s hair with his free hand. “You know you could just tell him you’re interested in him. It’d save you a lot of trouble.”

“What is the point of being sexiest duelist of the year if I can’t even get my crush to pursue me?”

“You know there isn’t an algorithm for that and it was just a popularity poll right? I’m pretty sure Kaiba won the last few years-”

“-before I showed up and proved them all wrong with my amazing and superior features. Obviously, Yugi.”

Yugi rolled his eyes. “Obviously. So, sexiest duelist of the year, what are you going to do? Flirt fruitlessly for another decade or so until Jounouchi stumbles into a marriage with some blonde with a nice rack?”

“I’m partially blonde with a nice rack.”

Yugi shook his head pulling his tablet back towards his face, his fingers resuming their tap tap tapping away.

“I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’ve played every card in my deck.”

“Except for just telling him how you feel.”

Atem scoffed, “Yes except for that...what are you working on?”

“The game I was making. I’m almost done with the raws, and I may be ready to take it to the practice play stages.”

“I’m sure Kaiba will be eager to get his hands on it.”

“Ah, well,” Yugi moved his tablet to cover his face, “I’m actually thinking of taking this out of the country. Maybe the states or germany.”

Pegasus or that pink haired guy whose name Atem couldn’t pronounce? That was odd. Especially for Yugi.

“Why would you do that? He may be an asshole, but he’s still sort of our friend. Kaiba would support you just as well financially as those others.”

“I know, but...well, wouldn’t it be weird? I don’t want to just sell this game patent off for someone else to do whatever they wanted with it. I want someone who will work on it with me, and that would put me and Kaiba in each other’s space a lot.” Yugi leaned back into his pillows. “He’d probably get sick of me, and if that happens there’s a risk of things becoming unprofessional.”

There was something disturbingly sad and wistful about Yugi’s expression that had warning bells going off in Atem’s head.

“By the gods, you like Kaiba.”

“What? No!”

“You do! Your face is getting redder than the blossoms that sprout alongside the nile.”

Yugi turned his face away, shielding his expression with his tablet. “That’s because you’re embarrassing me by accusing me of things that aren’t true.”

“How long have you been carrying this torch? He tried to kill us, you know.”

“Lots of people tried to kill us, Atem. Not to mention we almost killed him a few times by involving him in the ancient egyptian magic nonsense.”

“He did the same to us with his virtual world magic nonsense!”

“So we’re even!”

“Yugi.” Atem had sat up barring his arms around Yugi’s head and staring down at him. “You have to realize Kaiba isn’t some ordinary businessman or quirky duelist. He runs a multi-million dollar company with his teenage brother and has no higher up under staff that helps him after the Big Five made it nigh impossible for him to trust people with that kind of power. I work for the man. He barely makes time to eat, and what little time he does have that isn’t bled into that business is given to his little brother. Not to mention how ridiculously stubborn, petty, and high and mighty his attitude is to anyone he considers beneath him which is everyone. Do you really think someone like him could give you the love and treat you with the respect you deserve?”

“I’d want to believe he could.”

Yugi.”

“Whatever!” Yugi sat up pushing Atem back, “It doesn’t matter anyway. He’s not interested. He’d never be interested! I doubt he’s interested in anything besides the blue eyes white dragon itself! I’m just doomed to get my hopes up for nothing until the longing slips back into something platonic again and I can move on with the rest of my life.”

Atem opened his mouth to say something that might change Yugi’s sour mood, but his partner was already moving off the bed.

“I’m going to take a shower. Goodnight, Atem.”

A very clear dismissal in that this conversation would not continue whether or not Atem was still awake. Atem let out a real sigh this time and got up to change into his pajamas. Maybe he’d gone too far? No, he couldn’t have gone too far. Kaiba was a friend, but he was still a bastard, and Yugi did deserve better. He deserved the best partner the world had to offer...but who was Atem to judge that for his partner? Yugi didn’t have a problem going after things that he wanted since they were separated. Before that even. Maybe he needed a nudge here or there, which Atem or their friends were willing to provide, but when Yugi went for something he went in with his whole heart. The real concern was Kaiba.

He was the only one of their enemies that Atem had to beat in a shadow game twice. Not to mention how wound up, private, and unnecessarily bitter the man could be. Sure the gifts sent to Yugi seemed to be thoughtful, but Atem doubted Kaiba could come up with such ideas on his own. What if he ended up really hurting Yugi? What if he made Yugi cry? Atem wasn’t sure if he’d be able to control himself if that happened, friend boss or not. Then there was the worse prospect of Kaiba taking advantage of Yugi’s kindness in order to heal himself. What if he used Yugi up until he was in a better spot in his mind and then tossed him away for someone else leaving his poor partner to pick up the pieces of his heart? Atem definitely wouldn’t have a problem killing Kaiba then.

He’d crawled into his bed on the top bunk when Yugi returned. He wanted to restate his argument now that he had more fuel to add to the fire. Not to hurt, Yugi. Never to hurt his partner, but to warn him of all the dangers such an affection were sure to lead to. He waited until Yugi was in bed for him to peer over the edge closer to the wall and get a peek to see if Yugi was going to bed or going to play on his phone for a while. The light from between the frame and the crack told him of the latter.

Moving to the other side, Atem poked his head over only for the words to get caught in his throat. Yugi was under the blankets with his back to him wearing the large cat ear headphones. A gift from Anzu. He was also staring at his phone which had an uncomfortable looking Kaiba talking wordlessly from a sunny balcony setting. Atem took a second to remember when that was from only to remember it was from a trip several months ago that Kaiba had expressed an extremely brief concern about. Yugi asked if it’d help Kaiba to give an update to a third party that wouldn’t drop any information even offering his own time causing Kaiba to clam up. The conversation topic changed with an interjection from Mokuba. The weekend of the trip, Yugi was surprised to get the video message since it was sent while he was in class, but the fact that Kaiba had made an effort because Yugi asked must’ve meant a lot to his partner.

Atem pulled himself back up before he could get caught eavesdropping and yanked the blanket over his head. He’d need to sleep on whatever disastrous decision he was going to make tomorrow.

 


 

Kaiba came in the next day as promised not in his usual attire, but in one of his low profile disguises that consisted of looking like a j-pop idol with sunglasses.

“You look like an Arashi reject,” Atem commented.

“Shut up.” Kaiba removed his sunglasses jostling the loose curls his bangs held. “How’d your not date go?”

Atem made a point to slowly wipe down the counter he was at, noting that even in his simple v-neck and black jeans, in his heart he knew he looked better than Kaiba. “I am...considering the offer you made yesterday.”

“That bad. As expected from someone like Jounouchi.” The smirk in his tone made Atem want to sock him in the jaw.

“Are you going to help me or not?”

“If you agree to my terms, we have a deal.”

Setting the dust cloth aside, Atem turned to face Kaiba with his arms crossed over his chest. A small part of him felt like he was selling out Yugi by agreeing. The logical part of him knew he was technically preventing what was probably going to happen from happening sooner considering both Yugi and Kaiba had feelings for each other. The emotional part of him still strongly objected to this and insisted that he could get Jounouchi to desire him without Kaiba’s help.

“Fine. You get one opportunity to ask Yugi out, and if you fail I’ll continue as I have been.” Atem held one finger up, his eyes narrowed in his fiercest glare.

Kaiba smiled, “Perfect.”

The bell over the front door rung out and Atem opened his mouth to welcome them but instead sputtered out, “Yugi?!”

“Hey, class was canceled today. Are you busy with a custom- oh! Kaiba-kun.” Yugi gripped the strap of his side bag a little tighter. “You’re in disguise mode. Are you telling us about where to get a new game release that “doesn’t exist yet” again?”

“No. I’m here to ask you out on a date.”

Atem sputtered at the phrase. Trust Kaiba to not waste any time and go straight in for the kill. That conniving bastard! He probably timed this all expecting Atem to agree!

Yugi’s smiling face went from the warm tanned peach tones to a burning red, “Wh-what.”

“Yugi. Go on a date with me.” Kaiba stepped into Yugi’s space, staring down at him with determination. It came out as more of a command than a question.

“Uh- oh, okay. All right. Yes. Yes, we can go on a date.” Despite the nervousness, Yugi maintained eye contact with Kaiba. “I’m free Thursday nights, and all day on Sundays, and Monday evenings.”

Kaiba pulled out his phone, his thumb running through his schedule, “I have an opening this Monday at 5.”

“That’s right when my class ends.”

“I can send a car to come get you.”

Yugi pushed one of his bangs behind his ear, “I wouldn’t want to be an inconvenience.”

“You won’t be. I’ll send a car. We’ll get an early dinner.”

“Okay.” Yugi’s smile was shy, “It’s a date then.”

Kaiba nodded and put his sunglasses on. “Atem.”

Atem still hadn’t gotten through the shock of what just happened. “Huh.”

“Wait a week and ask Jounouchi out again. To Kaibaland. Abuse your employee discount for once. Knowing how the internet works, this will all blow over by next Thursday evening at the latest.” Kaiba walked out not making eye contact with either store occupant as the bell over the door signaled his exit.

The store was quiet for several pregnant moments before Yugi asked, “Were you two talking about your crushes or something?”

“In an extremely roundabout way.” Atem didn’t know how else to answer that. It was easier to go with a lie when someone else made it for you. “Glad to be wrong?”

“Yeah, I am. Ah, I have a test on Friday and I won’t be able to focus at all thanks to this! I’m going to take a nap.” Yugi dodged past Sugoroku who was coming downstairs to relive Atem of the front. “Hi grandpa, bye grandpa.”

“What’s got him in a hurry?” Sugoroku asked as he took a seat at his stool.

“Youth.” Atem was not about to tell Yugi’s grandpa that he had a date with the man who kidnapped and nearly killed him. Let his partner figure out how to explain that elephant on the soil.

 


 

Seto Kaiba did not get nervous. There were things that could be planned for and things that didn’t exist on his schedule if they couldn’t be planned for. This date with Yugi was perfectly planned for. He even constructed exactly how their conversation would carry throughout the meal based on several simulated tests. Not only was this going to be the perfect first date for Yugi, but Kaiba would prove he was the most suitable partner for a long term relationship with his five step plan. Mokuba said the five-step plan was unnecessary, and he was more likely to embarrass himself if things got out of order, but the simulation tests did not confirm that so Mokuba was wrong.

Yugi arrived at the restaurant on time looking as cute as he ever did even with his slightly rumpled light purple button down, dark jeans, and all of his usual accessories. He couldn't quite let the goth aspect of his fashion go after highschool not that Kaiba was complaining. There was a curious part of him that wanted to know Yugi's face without the heavy eyeliner, but patience was a virtue.

"Hi Kaiba-kun. Did you wait long?" Yugi took the seat across from him at the booth.

"No, I arrived a few minutes before to secure a table." Kaiba passed Yugi a menu. "The waitress will be back in approximately thirty seconds to ask for drink choices so think fast."

That wasn't an exaggeration or a part of his plan. The waitress' eyes had grown wide as soon as she set her sights on Kaiba even in his disguise, and he was sure she was the type to pop up as soon as you took a bite of food to ask if you needed anything.

"They have a lot of drinks. Fruit teas, coke products, an alcoholic drink bar-"

"Hello, have you two decided what you might like to drink?"

Twenty seconds instead of thirty. Maybe Kaiba needed different hairstyles for his disguises, or colored contacts.

"Yugi?"

"Mm, okay, I'll take the mango tea please."

Kaiba set his menu onto the table. "I'll have the jasmine tea."

"Okay, I'll get your drinks and give you a few minutes to decide." She said with a big smile as she went to the kitchen window.

"A fan of yours?" Yugi teased.

"Preferably a case of mistaken identity."

"You do look like you work with Arashi."

It was official. He was never doing the curly bangs again. No time to simmer on that. It was time to implement the five step plan.

Step 1, let Yugi speak during most of the conversation. Studies show that the worst date experiences are ones where one partner either can't get a word in or doesn't feel like they're being listened to. By engaging Yugi with questions that prompt long drawn out answers, Kaiba could avoid talking over him while making him feel listened to.

"How's university?”

“It’s fun. Challenging, but fun. On one hand, I had an idea that the things you work on everyday were difficult, but it’s so different being on the other side and getting an idea of how much goes into it. Software engineering, development, heck making sure the programs can run and then realizing there’s hundreds of lines and numbers you have to comb through when it doesn’t or when a bug happens.” Yugi looked through the menu as he spoke. “It’s enlightening. It’s no wonder people want to say science is a type of magic.”

“They shouldn’t. It’s insulting. Everything has a reason for why it functions.” Kaiba already knew what he wanted having been here before with Mokuba, but pretended to look before keeping the menu book open on the page he needed.

“Yeah, but it wouldn’t have a reason if people weren’t naturally curious. If we break it down to the barest essentials, we zapped a rock with lightning and taught it to think.”

Kaiba didn’t have a response for that. In a crude way, Yugi was right. Sensing this conversation could turn into a battle of philosophies, which was not first date conversation, Kaiba veered them back on topic.

“How are the professors?”

“They’re cool!” Yugi finally looked up from the menu, probably made a decision by now. “Some are stricter than I expected, but they want us to succeed unlike a few old high school teachers. University is a completely different place from Domino High. I have so much free time now as compared to then, I almost don’t know what to do with myself. Then it’s even easier to lose track of how much homework can pile up, but at least my scores aren’t slapped on a wall anymore for people to judge me for not doing as well.”

The waitress returned with their drinks, “Are you two ready to order?”

Yugi looked at Kaiba, “You first?”

“Beef jjigae.” Kaiba folded his menu closed.

“I’ll have the kimchi jeon, and cheese kalbi please.” Yugi set his menu on top of Kaiba’s for the waitress to grab more easily.

She bowed off with their menus, and before Kaiba could ask his next question, Yugi gave him a look he couldn’t identify. Smugly curious? Sweetly interested?

“I’m surprised you picked a place like this, Kaiba-kun.”

“You don’t like it.”

“No no no, that isn’t it at all.” Yugi waved his hands in front of himself. “I just thought you’d pick something extra fancy. Like a 5 star restaurant with a menu in a language I couldn’t read or something similar.”

“As I recall, you prefer hamburgers while I prefer steak. This seemed like the most beneficial middle ground.”

“It is. It’s great. I only thought I might have to wear a suit.”

Kaiba raised an eyebrow, “You recently finished class. Why would I risk making you uncomfortable with a dress code?”

Unhelpfully, Yugi shrugged, the soft smile still on his face as he took a sip of his tea. “Mm. This is really good. Do you want to try some?”

An indirect kiss? That was moving too fast wasn’t it? Something like that should be reserved for the fifth date at the earliest. Was Yugi the type to move quickly in a relationship? Was his simulation flawed?

“No thank you.”

“Suit yourself.” Yugi moved his glass back into his hands taking another sip, “So how are your classes?”

Kaiba did not flinch, but he did wonder how Yugi knew about such a thing. Not to mention it was too early for Yugi to be asking about Kaiba. Equal exchange of information was reserved for step three after their food arrived, not before step 2 which was to give a few compliments on Yugi’s work ethic. Was it a guess? Not one to be deterred, Kaiba decided to call his bluff. “I don’t take any classes.”

“You can’t fool me. The Great Seto Kaiba stopping at a high school degree? We’re not old enough yet for the older adults in either of our lives to take us seriously without a university education. Plus, you have too much pride not to prove to yourself how easy it is to get one on top of wanting to set a good example for Mokuba.”

Either Yugi was getting too clever, or Kaiba was becoming predictable and neither answer satisfied him. Kaiba was taking university classes strictly online, but he didn’t need the paperwork saying he knew what he was doing with software or hardware considering his business already showed that. What he actually ended up pursuing was too personal and too embarrassing to reveal. If Yugi tried to weave the answer out of him, he probably could. The King of Games always played things off as if his opponent had the upper hand until they fell right into his trap. Kaiba still fell for it even with all his overthinking and knowing what Yugi was up to during their duels.

“Kaiba-kun?”

Shit. He’d been quiet for too long. Studies show if your date feels as though you’re pulling away or avoiding questions they’ll find you suspicious of ulterior motives.

The waitress came over with Yugi’s jeon. A lifeline. “Here you go. Your food will be another few minutes. We have a new chef in the back.”

“Thank you,” Yugi returned her smile before she walked away.

“I’ll tell you on our second date.” A simple deflection. Kaiba didn’t avoid danger, but he couldn’t risk playing his cards incorrectly. He needed to make a good impression. The first date was an initial desirability check meaning he had to prove himself as reliable, attentive, and respectful. The follow ups were for compatibility, and each date after the first you were only to reveal a bit more personal sensitivities as not to overwhelm your prospective partner.

“I’ll hold you to it.”

Kaiba could ask more about Yugi’s degree, but he likely risked sounding like a concerned parent if he asked how Yugi’s classes were. What other questions had he asked during the successful simulated run? Family? Friends?

“Are you working on any personal projects?” Was what he managed to remember.

Yugi finished chewing and swallowing his mouthful before answering, “Nothing big. I made a short point and click game for one of my classes and it was pretty popular. I might add more to it, but I feel like I’m talking a lot. Tell me about you. What do you do outside of work, mystery classes, and spending time with Mokuba?”

Oh no. This was the one question he removed from the simulation. Sleep was not an acceptable answer. Neither was staring at the wall wondering where the time had gone and how he felt much older than he’d been alive for. He also couldn’t say therapy, rotating the in house staff for fun, or doing his routine background checks on everyone he knows.

“We have a cat.” Was that the right answer? Yugi’s eyes grew wider than they usually looked as he mouthed the word cat. Evidence was needed. Kaiba broke his rule of taking his phone out, swiped away the thirty email notifications from work and opened his photo log to find a good picture of the service animal. It was technically Mokuba’s service animal, since he did not want his younger sibling to struggle through poor mental health for as long as he had, but the orange maine coon annoyingly doted on both of them. He found a picture of her perched beside his laptop glaring at the camera and turned his phone around.

“Awww, he’s adorable.”

“She.”

“What’s her name?”

Ah, that was why he didn’t mention the cat. “Her name is Blue Eyes.”

Yugi snorted. “Let me guess, Mokuba picked the name?”

“He has an enthralling sense of humor.” The sarcasm was thick in his tone sending Yugi into a fit of giggles.

“There’s the Kaiba-kun I know. You were being so polite, I was worried I had mistaken your identity.”

What did that mean? What did that mean? This wasn’t in the practice run. Where was he supposed to take the conversation? “Am I not supposed to be polite?”

“You can be, but I can tell you’re not relaxed at all. You don’t have to think about trying to impress me.”

He didn’t?

“We’ve already seen each other in pretty low spots. I think we’re allowed to skip the nervous part of dating.”

They can?

Yugi placed his hand on top of Kaiba’s where it sat on the table. “Kaiba-kun.”

Against every ingrained response, Kaiba felt his face grow somewhat warm at the half-lidded look Yugi now bore.

“Tell me about your weekend.”

His weekend. Relax. Easier said than done, but there was a lot to complain about.

“I-”

“FIRE.” A shrill voice called out.

Yugi and Kaiba’s gazes darted over to see flames spewing from the tiny kitchen window. Their waitress was ushering people out while a few other hosts tried throwing pitchers of ice water into the flames to no avail. Yugi gripped his hand tugging him out of the booth seat and they both evacuated with the other patrons with the staff following close behind.

They waited outside for the fire department to show up as the restaurant, which was thankfully not touching any other buildings, gradually went up in flames. Kaiba could spot the new chef that the waitress mentioned from his clothing being the most charred. As the sound of the sirens got closer, Kaiba chanced a glance at Yugi. Yugi seemed contemplative. Not good.

“This is the worst date you’ve been on,” Kaiba said.

“Eh, I’d rank this as 6th worst date I’ve been on.”

“A stunning vote of confidence.”

“I mean there wasn’t some random asshole with a penchant for murder who took either of us hostage as a fun little quirk, so this is still pretty high up there for good dates I’ve been on. Like the second best date.”

Second best. Ugh. “What was your best date?”

Yugi took Kaiba’s hand again, interlacing their fingers, “You haven’t taken me on it yet.”

It would’ve been smooth if Yugi’s stomach hadn’t growled right afterwards.

“Do you want to try another restaurant?” Kaiba asked. There were at least a dozen more within walking distance from here.

“Or we could avoid the risk, eat dinner at your place, and I get to meet Blue Eyes?”

“Won’t I be an easy date if I bring you back to my house this fast.”

“No, but you’d be a very cool date. Cool and mysterious, and so suave.”

“Keep the compliments up. Someone might believe you,” Kaiba said as he texted Isono to bring the car around.

 


 

"So as it turns out, Jounouchi kept deflecting my advances because he thought you and I were dating," Atem said.

Yugi stopped petting Atem's hair for a moment, "What? Why would he think that?"

Kaiba glared at them both from behind his desk. Yugi had dropped by to escape his family's admittedly busy game shop and get some studying done. So he had been laying across the one comfortable couch in Kaiba's office as they worked together silently until Atem, who was supposed to be working, decided to make a nuisance of himself two hours into their quiet companionship. Now an hour and a half later, Atem was still here, laid on top of Yugi with his head on Yugi's chest and arms around his waist while Yugi studied from his tablet in one hand and pet the pharaohs' hair with the other. If this was normal for the two obviously Jounouchi would assume they were in a relationship. If Kaiba hadn't been dating Yugi right now and saw this, he would've thought the same.

"Don't you have work to do." Kaiba sneered.

"I'm on my break," Atem said as he pressed his cheek into Yugi's chest. Kaiba would even call it nuzzling sickening enough.

"I'm generous enough to give my employees an hour lunch break with two separate thirty minute paid breaks between, but you're already over your quota for the day. Leave."

Atem sat up saying, "Kaiba, don't you want your best game tester to be completely recharged before trying any more possible heart attack inducing VR?"

"Heart attack inducing? What do you mean heart attack inducing?" Yugi turned to look at Kaiba as well. They still hadn't delved into the forbidden Death-T topic, but Kaiba had tried to apologize only for Yugi to stop him and say he wasn't ready to go through the conversation yet.

"Holograms are a show with flashing lights and big monster images Yugi. There's the basic warnings for it to possibly induce seizures, heart attacks, and for pregnant women as well as old people with heart problems to avoid them similar to any system that would cause your heart to start racing from adrenaline. It was on the box of the first duel disk I designed." Kaiba looked back at his screen. The unspoken topic still hanging heavy in the room. "And you're not testing a horror game. We don't make those. You were the one we couldn't pull out of the roller coaster pod when you learned it was to simulate flying alongside your favorite monsters. Get back to the testing room."

"I will," Atem laid his head back down onto Yugi's chest, "in a minute."

Kaiba did not growl though Yugi's look said otherwise, but he did press the yellow button saved for annoyance level emergencies. "Mokuba. Remove Atem from my office."

A sigh came from the other end, and a few minutes later Mokuba entered looking as much as a laid back third year high schooler could. "Come on, Atem. I have a new game in beta I need you on the 17th floor for."

Atem huffed. He didn't seem like he was going to move for a moment, before he slipped his arms out from Yugi and stood in one smooth motion. "Need your baby brother to save you, Kaiba?"

"I'd rather not have security drag you out. You'd like it too much." Kaiba snapped back.

"Probably."

Kaiba pinched the bridge of his nose, letting Atem and Mokuba's conversation fade into background noise until the doors of his office shut with a snickt. He really shouldn't let Atem get away with such behavior. It set a bad example for the other employees allowing him to get away with things, but Atem was also the only one of his game testers that could sus out any problem during the beta phase. Most people managed to catch things either before the game was about to go on the shelves or when it was too late and there were speedrun videos online for how to abuse glitches.

"You get an hour break?" Yugi asked suddenly standing beside Kaiba's chair.

He let his hand fall from the bridge of his nose to rest on his desk, "My employees get an hour break unpaid, and another hour break paid that they're allowed to split however they want."

"You're an employee."

"I'm the owner. My salary doesn't change whether or not I take a break, but it does when I don't get enough work done. Bad for stocks."

Yugi perched himself on the arm of Kaiba's chair, "Sounds like you need a break."

Kaiba knew that tone. Originally, he'd thought dating Yugi would be similar to those movie romances he didn't watch where the girl was shy about everything, but he'd learned that Yugi was extremely forward about everything. A hand brushed the shell of his ear feigning to fix a few loose strands of hair.

"Kaiba-kun," Yugi used the same hand to cradle under Kaiba's jawline and coaxed his head towards him. "Let's take a break, hm?"

A part of Kaiba knew that despite how new this relationship was, if he didn't start putting his foot down now, he'd put up less of a fight later. But then Yugi was moving one of Kaiba's hands to rest on the lid of the laptop giving him the option to close it himself. Kaiba could shut this down and return to work, and Yugi would respect it. Yugi didn't try to coax him into it with a kiss or anything. Yet, Kaiba's eyes darted to Yugi's lips and the weight of his hand let the laptop shut on it's own.

"I can do fifteen minutes."

Yugi kissed him this time, a soft press of closed lips before asking, "An hour?"

"...thirty minutes at the most."

"Before your thirty minute lunch of course," was said as Yugi settled into Kaiba's lap with another kiss.

So an hour. Kaiba's eyes closed into the kiss, but he did roll his eyes behind his lids. He walked right into that one, but he had no regrets about it.

The door slammed up forcing Kaiba to grab Yugi’s hips to keep him from falling to the floor.

“I KNEW YOU MADE ME LEAVE TO MAKE OUT WITH YUGI,” Atem voice said from the doorway.

Mokuba came up behind Atem panting. “Sorry bro, I tried to grab him.”

“I can’t believe this. You accuse me of slacking off on the job? Yet, here you are-” Atem went on and Kaiba considered lobbing his paper weight at the other man.

Yugi climbed out of his lap and pretended to dust off his pants. “I’ll grab us lunch.”

“Take him with you and ditch him on your way back,” Kaiba replied.

Yugi winked at him.

Kaiba watched all three of them go. When the doors shut behind them and he was finally by himself, he wove his fingers together and set them on his desk in irritation.

Fifth attempt at making out with his boyfriend in his office.

Abject failure.