The night had begun its shift into day, the whole base waiting anxiously as the early hours of the morning crept by.
Everyone was on edge, Yugi could tell. He had spoken with Anzu and Ryou over a shared breakfast earlier, and from their hushed tones, he could tell that their mood was grim. No one was certain Dartz would be at this base, and if he wasn’t, they ran the risk of wasting time, or falling into a trap. They had barely escaped Dartz’s last game, and Yugi wasn’t eager to be thrown around into more like a puppet on a string.
He caught up with Atem sometime before they were to set off. The android had been milling around the base, walking down corridors and not really doing anything. He had been embarrassed when he had admitted this to Yugi, but Yugi just brushed it off.
“I’ll go see if Mana and Mahad need help at all. I need to be of use somehow.” Atem muttered, moving away from Yugi.
“Wait, Atem.” Yugi tugged on the other’s arm, stopping him.
“What is it?” Atem asked softly, his full attention turning to Yugi.
“I want you to have this; to use, in the fight ahead.” Because there would be a fight. It was impossible to catch Dartz off guard now; he would know they were coming.
He pressed one of his guns into Atem’s hand, making sure he had a tight grip on it before letting go. It wasn’t in the most pristine condition since Atem had sliced through it while brainwashed, but he had managed to restore it to at least fire.
Atem stared down at the weapon, brows furrowing in confusion. “One of your pistols? But why? These are your… well… I can’t accept this.” He tried to hand it back, but Yugi wouldn’t take it.
“No, I want you to use it. This is my decision,” Yugi insisted. “I only need one, but I want you to have the other.”
“You can use guns, can’t you?” Yugi chuckled.
“Of course,” Atem flushed. “But I don’t understand why you’re giving me your treasured weapon. You almost killed Mana for using this before.”
“That was different. I didn’t know Mana, and I had lost that gun for years. I’ve learnt to deal with just one.”
“But now you don’t have to, you have both of them.” Atem argued. He held the gun back out. “Anzu said you were at your best when you dual wielded these pistols, so I think it’s best you take this back.”
“I’m not going to, so there’s no point in arguing with me on this. I made my decision Atem. I want you to use it. Will you accept my wishes?”
Atem paused, processing Yugi’s words. His face went through an array of emotions, each more intense than the last, leaving him with a strange expression on his face.
Yugi gave him the time, standing there patiently. He was aware of their time limit, and how he really should be rushing, but staring at Atem, he found he didn’t have the heart to push the other.
“I think…” Atem started, fingers brushing over the gun. Yugi didn’t think Atem even knew he was doing it, a subconscious reaction probably.
“Yes?” Yugi said gently.
Atem’s expression hardened, and he nodded, his mind made up. “I’ll do it. I’ll use your gun, Yugi.”
“Good.” Yugi smiled, patting Atem’s shoulder. “Treat her nicely.”
“I will.” Atem cradled the gun close to him in an almost loving way, and Yugi coughed awkwardly into his hand.
“I’ll just… Go set up the mech.” He muttered, sliding away.
Yugi was surprised to find Bruno working on his mech when he entered the hanger bay, a panel open on one of the legs in which the android was fiddling around in.
“Bruno.” Yugi said in way of greeting. “Everything good?”
Bruno jumped, turning to give Yugi a warm smile. “Oh, hello General Mutou. Ah yes, just fixing up some stuff from your last encounter. Your suspension was a little out, so Yusei asked me to right it.”
“Well if anyone would know, it’d be Yusei. And maybe Honda.” Yugi commented, standing back to give Bruno room to work.
He wandered around the hanger bay instead, walking up to both Anzu’s and Mahad’s mech, eyes tracing over their armour.
“Interesting, isn’t it?” A voice said softly. Yugi glanced to his side, the tall form of Yusei standing next to him. He was staring at Mahad’s mech, a gleam in his eye. Yugi guessed he was itching to check inside it and see just how it worked.
“Unfortunately, it’s not under my jurisdiction. I can’t let you play with this one I’m afraid.”
“I know.” Yusei said, head swerving to look at Yugi. “You know there’s no way to reverse what happened.” Yusei said. Yugi sighed. This isn’t about the mech I see.
“Yeah, I know.”
“The programming can be rewritten, but that goes for anyone with access. It will be hard, for him to adjust.”
“I’m not going to let anyone even try,” Yugi grunted. “I’ve seen a lot of fucked up shit in my time, but what happened to Atem has got to be the worst.”
“It is a difficult position to be in. We can’t even begin to imagine.”
“I know,” Yugi said sadly. “I can’t even offer him a point of understanding.”
“You’re trying, that’s what counts.”
“Sometimes it might not be good enough though.”
Yusei went to say something, but was interrupted by people entering the hanger bay. Atem, Mana and Mahad walked in, talking quietly among themselves. When Atem noticed Yugi, he led them over. Yusei at the same time excused himself, going to help Bruno finish up work.
“Admiring my mech are we?” Mahad teased.
“Just wondering how it stays standing with marksmanship like that.” Yugi grinned, and Mahad flushed.
“It’s a top of the range model.” Mahad shot back, faltering.
“Yugi please don’t tease him.” Atem chided him lightly. Yugi gave him a wink in return.
“All right, time to get serious I suppose.” Yugi’s expression dropped, and he looked around at the people gathered. “Where’s Anzu?”
“Here.” Anzu called out, striding into the hanger bay with perfect timing.
“Good, so everyone’s gathered.”
“Is it time?” Atem asked.
Yugi nodded. “It’s time.”
Yugi had Mahad install the location of the base he suspected Dartz to be at in all of their mechas. It meant that if they ended up being separated, or if something went wrong, any one of them would be able to hunt down Dartz.
Preferably they would take him all on together, having the strength in numbers and skills. Dartz was never the hands on type, so cornering the other to fight fist to fist, or gun to gun, in Yugi’s case, would be the most beneficial strategy for them.
“Looks like we’re close.” Atem noted, pulling Yugi back into his body. He glanced at the window on his cockpit displaying a map of their area.
The blimp of the location loomed in front of them on the map, their marker steadily approaching. The reality of how close they were to possibly finding Dartz and opposing him was heavy on Yugi’s mind, keeping his grip and expression grim. He was glad Atem was behind him, unable to see his face with Yugi’s driver seat blocking most of his small form and his entire front from view. He didn’t need to worry Atem anymore than he already was.
It wasn’t much longer before they saw the distance shape of a building forming on the horizon, standing in stark difference to the wavering yellow ground surrounding it.
As they grew closer, Yugi was able to make out a blurry shape, standing as tall as the compound it was in front of, metal plates shining in the harsh sunlight. Its parts were spread out wide, its stance one of battle.
“Is that…?” Atem said, leaning over his seat.
“Yep.” Yugi grunted, right as the mech fired at them.
Twin missiles launched from its arm compartments, shooting upwards to redirect towards them.
“Shit.” Yugi jerked back on his handles, the mech skidding to a rough stop in response. He immediately reset their direction, lunging to the side. The mech awkwardly moved to Yugi’s command, too bulky to really twirl flawlessly. Instead it lumbered on heavy feet, the cockpit bouncing them around.
Yugi’s head smacked against the back of his chair, and he heard Atem hit something behind him too.
“Mutou, that’s Raphael’s mech!” Mahad’s voice came through the radio. “Be careful, we’re coming in behind you too!”
Shit, of course it would be, Yugi thought, flicking several switches on the dashboard. “I’m launching a counter attack, make sure you’re in tight Atem!”
He slammed a hand down on the fire button, and his mech chirped happily in response. An arm pivoted towards the enemy mech, shooting off a series of missiles of its own.
This forced the other mech to jolt into action, shooting regular bullets at the missiles to explode them before they collided. The mecha looked heavier than Yugi’s, more loaded with weapons and with thicker armour no doubt. It would mean movement would be slower, giving them the advantage of speed.
Yugi meanwhile had used this time to jump closer, the moment of distraction the perfect chance for a close strike.
The mech moved to intercept, firing from its small pistols, the tiny bullets pelting down on their armour.
Yugi was no idiot though, he knew the reason they were firing uselessly on him. He kept their distance apart short, not giving the other mech the chance to launch long range missile. He knew they ran the risk of a tiny bullet piercing somewhere vital at this close ranger, but there was a higher chance of a missile causing more damage if they pulled away, like the other wanted them too.
Damn it they’ve got us trapped, Yugi gritted his teeth. It wasn’t hopeless though, he had been in worse situations, and if there was one thing he knew, it was that there was always a way out.
And it came in the form of Anzu in her mech, crashing an arm into Raphael’s mech, throwing his aim off Yugi’s.
The radio crackled to light, and Yugi heard Anzu yelling down the line.
“We’ll handle this guy Yugi! If he’s guarding the base, Dartz is sure to be inside!”
“Roger! Don’t die Captain!”
“Only if you don’t, Mutou!”
Yugi cackled, letting his laughter reach through the line before he cut it.
He pulled the mecha back, allowing Anzu to step in with hers, butting heads with the bulkier mech.
Raphael tried to shift his attention to Yugi, who was creeping away on the outskirts of the fight, but Mahad chose that moment to charge in, stepping in front of Yugi’s mech.
“We’ll keep him busy.” Mahad said, and Yugi heard Mana shout encouragements in the back seat.
“It’s nice to have back up.” Atem noted.
“Reliable friends are always better than a stronger mech.” Yugi agreed.
With Anzu and Mahad keeping Raphael busy, Yugi was able to slip past in his smaller mech, dashing up to the entrance of the base.
“Ready for a showdown?” Yugi asked, turning to grin at Atem.
Atem gave him a worried expression back, nodding grimly. “Do take Captain Mazaki’s words seriously Yugi.”
“I will, it’s hard not to when I have my own personal reminder following me around.”
That managed a smile on Atem’s face as he crawled out of his seat. “I’ll say it as many times as it takes for it to sink in.”
“Never a dull day with you two is there?” Yugi playfully rolled his eyes.
“Add Mana in and you have triple the trouble.”
“I’ll never sleep again.” Yugi chuckled, jumping out of the mech.
Atem followed closely behind, and they ran into the building, guns nestled cocked and ready in their hands.
They made their way into the bowls of the compound, heading deeper and deeper, kicking open doors to empty rooms along the way. Atem exchanged an apprehensive look with him, and Yugi frowned. Where was Dartz? Was he leading them into a trap? It was possible, Yugi didn’t doubt it, but there was something off about how easily they were traversing the place. They hadn’t ran into any problems, no booby traps to test and wear them out.
It was almost like Dartz was inviting them inside, not at all concerned Yugi and Atem would have the advantage in numbers.
They stopped in front of a large set of double doors, metal bars drilled across the sides.
“Looks to lead outside.” Atem commented.
“Or to a garage.” Yugi replied. He pushed on the bars, and they doors parted, sliding inwards.
They opened onto a large warehouse, probably off to the side of the compound as an extension. It was similar to Yugi’s base’s hanger bay, smoothed over with cement and a cold dreariness to the expansive air reaching to the high ceiling, but there were no mechs in this place.
But Yugi didn’t care for the details. He was too focused on staring down the man standing in the centre of the room, the heavy-duty lights above casting him in harsh brightness.
“So glad you could make it.” Dartz narrowed his eyes, a playful smirk on his face.
Atem and Yugi strode up to the man, stopping some distance away to keep any sudden movements manageable.
“I take it you had some help finding me,” Dartz continued, seemingly ignoring Yugi’s expression. “After all, I doubt you would have known about this place on your own. Have some Armesian help did you?”
“I’m not here to listen to your shitty voice ramble on Dartz.”
Of course, of course. A final showdown is it? You verses me?” Dartz chuckled. “Then why did you bring it?” He pointed at Atem, and Yugi didn’t miss the hurt that flashed over Atem’s face.
It was quickly replaced with anger, however. “Your words mean nothing to me. You’re below me, the things you do are despicable.”
“And yet you deem me enough for a lecture.” Dartz chuckled. Atem flushed. Yugi knew he wasn’t used to Dartz’s verbal battles, and the man had a way of snaking his words around one to strangle them.
He stepped in front of Atem, sparing him the sneer of contempt on the other’s face.
“And here comes Yugi Mutou, the android’s knight in shining armour,” Dartz sighed. “Why do you even bother Mutou? We both know you don’t care about some android’s life, deep down inside you. You’re just doing this for pity points, trying to convince yourself that you’re not the demon everyone thought you to be in the past.”
“My past has nothing to do with this, and you’re in idiot for thinking it does,” Yugi shot back. “This isn’t about me, for you see, unlike yourself, I don’t think I’m the most important thing in the world.”
“Oh come now, I don’t think I’m the most important thing,” Dartz shook his head, disappointment evident in his expression. It quickly changed into a smirk as he continued. “I’m the most important person, you silly boy. I’m not a thing like that trash heap you keep behind you.”
“You said before you thought he was your greatest achievement,” Yugi cocked an eyebrow. “You’re quick to change your mind once he stopped giving a shit about you.”
“It never did, so why would I care? It’s just an android. They’re designed to fight and die by our command.”
“Atem is a person, and you’re a sick creep for treating him as less.” Yugi growled. He could tell Dartz was just firing him up, and he was ashamed to admit it was working. He had subconsciously gripped his gun tighter, his trigger finger pressed tightly to the side of the barrel.
He felt Atem’s fingers brush against his back, and he forced himself to relax. He knew Atem was sending him the silent message, and he focused on the other’s touch, letting it block out Dartz’s jibes.
“I’m done talking with you.” Yugi said, rising his gun.
“Oh? We’re already on to violence are we?” Dartz chuckled. It was an unsettling sound, no joy in it, only contempt. Yugi’s lips curled back in response.
He fired a bullet into Dartz’s chest, and it embedded itself there. Dartz jerked backwards in reflex, but his body stayed upright, and he showed no signs of being in pain.
“What the hell…?” Yugi narrowed his eyes, glaring at Dartz. “I just shot you point blank. You should be dead; that bullet went through your heart.”
Dartz just smirked, pulling back his jacket and unbuttoning his shirt. Yugi went to shoot him again, but paused when he saw his first bullet lodged in Dartz’s chest, not even breaking the skin. There wasn’t even a trickle of blood, nothing to show damage. But… that should have gone through…
Dartz tapped his chest, and Yugi heard the clang of metal.
“You put… metal plates under your skin?” Yugi recoiled back in disgust. The thought alone was enough to make bile rise in his throat, the urge to throw up growing. “You continue to reach new lows, Dartz.”
“Why thank you. If your little toy had stuck around and been a good boy, I would have given him the same enhancement. But alas, you two decided to go against me. Your biggest mistake.” Dartz tutted, doing his shirt back up. “Now, we were in the middle of fighting, weren’t we?”
Yugi went to respond, but Dartz suddenly pulled out a gun from his pocket, aiming it straight at Yugi.
Yugi froze, cursing himself in his mind, but his body too sluggish to respond.
Atem gripped him roughly from behind, hauling him off to the side. Yugi yelped in protest, his shoulder connecting harshly with the ground.
He rolled away slightly, landing facing the others, just in time to see Atem dodge Dartz’s bullet. He had used the momentum from tossing Yugi to the side to duck under it himself, but they wouldn’t be lucky every time.
Yugi wriggled up into a sitting position, aiming his pistol at Dartz’s hand. He needed to get the gun out of Dartz’s grip; they wouldn’t be able to dodge every bullet at such close range, and it kept them at bay, meaning they only had their own guns, and they wouldn’t be able to hurt Dartz if that armour was all over. Yugi didn’t have enough bullets to test if he had implanted it everywhere.
Every move counted. He was grateful Atem also had his sword, meaning if he could get Atem in close range, he would be able to use it against Dartz.
I just have to give him the chance, Yugi said, taking careful aim. He knew Dartz was watching him from the corner of his eye, not distracted by Atem, but not willing to take his gun off the android, knowing Atem would shoot the moment he did. So maybe that armour isn’t everywhere, Yugi thought, smirking. Dartz’s attention then slipped to him for a split second, and Yugi made his move before Dartz had the chance to.
He shot at Dartz’s hand, and Dartz let out a yowl, dropping the gun to clutch his wounded arm tightly.
Yugi sprung from the floor, using the moment to return to Atem’s side. Atem meanwhile shot at Dartz’s leg, the clunk of the metal sounding out. So he’s got them there too, Yugi noted, seeing Atem nod in acknowledgment as well.
“You bastard.” Dartz growled, glowering at them. “You’ll pay for this Mutou.”
“Add it to the list, you creep.” Atem snapped, and Yugi laughed.
“You heard the man.” Yugi stepped forward, aiming again. He saw Atem draw his sword in the corner of his eye, taking a battle stance next to him.
“You’re both going to die here.” Dartz said, drawing his own sword.
He lunged forward, and Atem rushed up to meet him in a clash of blades. Dartz kicked a boot into Atem’s gut immediately after, forcing the other to stumble back.
Yugi picked up Atem’s moment of weakness, drawing his dagger and driving it against the side of Dartz’s sword. It wouldn’t last long against a blade as thick as Dartz’s, but it would serve to keep it off him as he pointed his gun at Dartz’s face.
Dartz’s reaction was immediate, ducking down to slam the pommel of his sword into Yugi’s stomach. Damn that was fast, Yugi staggered, momentarily winded.
Luckily Atem was by his side to help, keeping Yugi upright with a light push, sword drawn in front of them to protect them both.
Yugi exchanged a look with him, and Atem nodded. He had seen it too; Dartz was fickle about his face, meaning his hands weren’t the only thing still completely human in him.
They charged again, together this time, both attacking Dartz at the same time.
They moved back to back, tossing and jumping around each other like they would die without the constant contact. They were in complete sync, no need for verbal communication, their light touches and movements enough for them to read off of each other.
Yugi kept Dartz moving with the occasional shot, while Atem would pivot around to slash with his sword. When Yugi needed to reload, Atem took over shooting, using Yugi’s other gun to keep Dartz at bay.
They had Dartz on the defence mostly, the combination of their dual efforts overpowering him, despite his robotic enhancements.
Reliable friends are always better than a powerful mech, Yugi mused to himself, exchanging a momentary glance with Atem. He could tell Atem was thinking the same from the shine in his eyes.
Dartz was getting frustrated with them, the smirk long since wiped off his face to be replaced by a constant scowl.
“You’re not going to win this, Mutou.” He taunted, but Yugi just scoffed.
“As long as you die, I don’t care, Ironheart.”
“You can kill me, but your little android will never be human again. You failed, Yugi Mutou. You-”
The gunshot rang out through the warehouse. Dartz’s eyes went wide, smoke puffing up from the hole in his head.
“You talk too much.” Yugi said, right as Dartz’s body hit the ground hard. “Rule number one of being a human; protect your brain, idiot.”
Yugi went to lower his gun, the threat of Dartz now gone, but he found his arm had frozen.
His hand was shaking, the cold metal of his gun biting into his palm. He pressed harder, not caring as his nerves cried out in pain. His mind was still locked in fighting mode, and he was struggling to let his body settle.
“Yugi.” His head jerked at his name, shooting a glare at Atem approaching him.
“Yugi.” Atem said again, arms raised in a gesture of peace. “It’s over. Dartz is dead. You can… lower the gun now.” He gave Yugi a soft smile.
Yugi could feel his breath leaving his body loudly, panting with his mouth open widely. He didn’t return the smile.
Instead he took a step back, keeping his gun stretched out in front of him. Atem evened the distance again, stepping forward.
“Don’t.” Yugi said in a low voice. Atem paused.
“Yugi, it’s just me. You know I can’t hurt you. I just want you to calm down, and drop the gun.”
“I can’t…” Yugi panted, shaking his head.
“Just listen to my voice, my words Yugi.” Yugi bit his lip, nodding.
“Our job here is done, you’re safe, I’m safe, we saved everyone. Dartz won’t hurt anyone any longer. We beat him. Go on; say it.”
“We beat him.” Yugi repeated, smoothing over the bruised section of his lips with his tongue. “We beat him.”
He closed his eyes, and Atem wrapped his arms around him. Yugi let out a choked sob, dropping his gun to fist his hands in Atem’s shirt.
“Shit, I’m sorry.” He whispered. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Atem said, rubbing soothing patterns over Yugi’s back. “You don’t always have to be strong, Yugi. Everyone has a moment where they need a shoulder to lean on.”
“I’m supposed to be strong though.” Yugi rebutted weakly. “I’m a General. I almost let Dartz get the better of me.”
“You’re also a person, and you’re only human…” Atem sucked in his breath, and Yugi didn’t miss it. He held Atem tighter, pulling his head back.
“You’re a person too you know. Fuck what Dartz thinks.”
“But he was right,” Atem sighed, fingers still dancing over Yugi’s back. “I’m only part human. My free will means nothing compared to a true human’s.”
“’True human’ what is this bullshit terminology? Who taught you that? I sure didn’t.”
Atem opened his mouth to comment, but then thought better of it, gazing off to the side instead. “It’s true…” He said weakly.
“It’s only true if you allow yourself to believe it. I used to think I wasn’t much of a person until you tried your damn best to convince me otherwise,” Yugi snorted, electing a surprised look from Atem. “So I’m going to try my damn best to convince you you’re a ‘true’ person. Your heart is in the right place, Atem. You’re good.”
Yugi took Atem’s hands into his making sure Atem was watching him closely. “You’re good.” He repeated, squeezing them.
“Thank you…” Atem breathed, a heavy sigh escaping as well.
“No Atem, thank you.” Yugi smiled, stroking a finger over Atem’s knuckles.
“What happens now?” Atem asked quietly, eyes turning to Yugi. “What… what do I… do?”
Yugi picked his gun up from the ground, gently sliding it back into its holster, taking the other Atem offered him and returning that as well. “Nothing.” He answered finally.
“You don’t need to do anything. Just be yourself.”
Atem’s brows furrowed. “But… if I don’t fight… what… do I do?”
“Just be yourself.” Yugi repeated. He shoved his hands into his pockets, not wanting to see them shaking still. “That’s all you need.”
Atem seemed to see through his attempt, placing a gentle hand on his arm. “Let’s leave this place. We should go check on the others outside, in case they need our help.”
Yugi snorted, a smile breaking out over his face. “Please, Atem. Anzu alone would have been enough to ground that guy, but with your friends too? I have no doubt they don’t need us.”
“True, I suppose.” Atem chuckled. “But we should go anyway. Considering how it went down last time we encountered Dartz, I’d hate to have another fiery escape.”
“Ah yes, I’d rather not be blown up.” Yugi nodded in agreement.
They retraced their steps back through the compound, focusing on the path ahead, too busy to let conversation flow.
The doors were all still open from their storm in, and they slipped out easily, the sunlight greeting them brightly.
Yugi paused as Anzu and Mahad’s mechas sat outside the door. Off to the side, he could see the smoking remains of Raphael’s mech, and he didn’t need to ask what had happened, trusting Anzu had made the right choices.
“Is Dartz taken care of?” Anzu asked over the loud speaker.
“Yep.” Yugi yelled back. The mechs lowered, and Mahad and Anzu jumped out, racing up to him with Mana close behind.
“Is he… you know…?” Mahad said, gesturing for more.
“Bullet to the skull.” Yugi replied, patting one of his pistols.
“What happens now Yugi?” Anzu asked.
Everyone was staring at him expectantly, waiting for him to step up as the leader to make the decision. I’m done being the leader, Yugi mentally sighed. I don’t want to live like this anymore.
He gazed around the makeshift circle, taking in everyone’s expressions, grim yet determined. Dartz was gone, and now they had the heavy task of cleaning up the aftermath, and smoothing over efforts on both sides of the war. Maybe we can finally end this useless fight, Yugi wondered. He knew one thing for sure; his job here was done.
And so was Atem’s. He didn’t deserve to be caught up in this mess any more.
Yugi turned to Anzu, who raised her eyebrows in expectation. “Anzu, I have a favour to ask of you…”
The new recruits were a loud bunch, constantly chattering and yelling at each other. They were young, reminding her a lot of Jou in his younger years, although Jou would deny he had gotten sloppy as time went on. It wasn’t like there was much to do these days anyway, what with the war over and their base reduced to a training camp in the desert.
Suddenly the newbies were bounding over to her, eyes wide and full of questions. She gave them an expectant smile, eyebrow raised.
“Yes recruits? What can I help you with?”
“What happened to the old General, General Mazaki?” One of them asked. “From the old war? That Mutou guy?”
Anzu chuckled, hands gravitating to her hips. “General Mutou had to quit about a year before the war ended. He was made redundant, got send off to a retirement home I believe.” Anzu stroked her chin, smiling at the confused looks she got in return.
“But wasn’t he one of the best soldiers? I remember hearing about this one battle…”
The recruits began excitedly chattering about, and Anzu took the chance to slip away.
She placed a tired hand to her face. No wonder Yugi had preferred his hand selected squad over training recruits. Granted, that had been a different time for the military, but it didn’t stop Anzu lamenting over how much easier it had been when the only wild thing that had happened at their base had been Jou’s curious experiments into Yusei’s tech.
At least, until Atem had arrived.
“Recruits giving you more trouble?” Ryou’s soft voice interrupted her. Anzu turned to see the man smiling at her, a pile of paperwork crammed into folders nestled between his hands.
“Somewhat.” She replied.
“Just pawn them off to Jou.” Ryou winked.
“I could.” Anzu looked thoughtful for a moment, considering it.
“What did they want anyway?”
“They were asking about Yugi.” Anzu said, and Ryou raised an eyebrow.
“That’s a new one, I’d think most people wouldn’t care, on the account of him disappearing before the end of the war.”
“It’s rather hard to shake off a title like that I guess.” Anzu shrugged, as if the action would do the same to hers.
“The General name is a strong one,” Ryou’s eyes shinned. “Isn’t that right, General Mazaki?”
“Please, when the kids aren’t around it’s Anzu. That’s an order.” Anzu sent him a mock glare, and Ryou smiled back.
“Someone’s got to keep you sane. That’s what you did for Yugi after all.”
“I did,” Anzu admitted with a laugh. “A harder job than with me, I’d say.”
“It is rather breezy for me.”
“You can handle anything Ryou. Why didn’t you aim for General rank?”
“I’m content with being a glorified secretary.” Ryou said.
Anzu just sighed, shaking her head. “I wonder how they’re doing out there.”
Ryou understood immediately, used to these conversations happening frequently.
“I’m sure they’re doing fine. They’re good for each other.”
“That’s true. It sucks not being able to see them often, but, this is what Yugi wanted.”
“I hope he’s at least relaxing out there. I’ll kick his ass if he doesn’t take retirement seriously.” Anzu huffed, and Ryou just laughed.
Miles away, in a small secluded valley, Yugi Mutou sneezed.
“Guess someone’s talking shit about me again.” He grimaced, wiping his nose. His attention shifted to his companion, tending to the garden as he always seemed to be.
“Hey Atem!” He called out, waiting for the other to look his way. “You going to take a break today or what!?”
“Just let me finish picking the last of these strawberries!” Atem shouted back, bending back down.
Yugi shook his head, lifting off the chair and trotting over to the other. He leaned against Atem’s back, humming.
“Those are some big strawberries.”
“It’s a good harvest this year.” Atem nodded, a satisfied look drifting over his face.
Yugi stood back, letting Atem finish up his work. He walked around their spacious garden, looking over all the herbs and vegetables Atem was nurturing.
When he has told Anzu he wanted to take Atem into the middle of nowhere to retire with a simple life, she had given him a disbelieving look. No one had expected it, and he himself hadn’t considered it an option until the time he said it. But it felt right, and he had been determined, knowing that it would help Atem grow more confident in his life. If Yugi had to live in isolation for him to achieve that, then that’s what Yugi would do.
And he had, for well over a year now.
He strolled back over to Atem, who had finished picking the strawberries into a small basket, waiting beside the patch for Yugi’s return.
“You feeling okay today?” Yugi asked, falling into their daily ritual.
“I’m fine.” Atem replied, head dipped. “The gardening really helps take my mind off it, and I haven’t ripped anything out in weeks.”
“The plants thank you for that.” Yugi chuckled, gently tugging the punnet out of Atem’s grip. “Shall we go wash some of these off for lunch?”
“I’d like that.” Atem nodded.
Yugi led the way inside the house, walking into the kitchen. He busied himself at the sink rinsing off the fruit while Atem took a seat at the table.
Washing the last off, Yugi placed them in a bowl on the table, plucking a few off for himself.
Atem was a little slower, taking one at a time, nibbling the edges. Yugi couldn’t deny how hungry he had gotten sitting outside in the hot sun, taking huge bites out of his own and finishing them much faster, grateful for the cool feeling of the fruit against his lips.
He stayed at the table, taking a seat across from Atem, waiting for the other to finish.
“Sorry.” Atem mumbled down into the strawberry in his hand.
“For what? Everyone eats at their own pace. Don’t rush, and enjoy them. You put a lot of care into raising them, and it’s not like anyone’s going to scold you for taking your time.”
“I… okay.” Atem nodded slowly.
“You sure you’re okay?” Yugi asked, frowning.
“Yeah,” Atem nodded, face scrunching up. “I just, think my system might be acting up again.”
“I can schedule a trip to see Yusei if you want.”
“No, I don’t think it’s life threatening.”
“Want me to take a look at it then? I promise I’ve been getting better.” Yugi joked, an attempt to lighten the mood. Atem sent a smile his way, acknowledging Yugi’s efforts.
“I appreciate the offer, Yugi, but I don’t think I need that kind of assistance.”
“Okay, sure,” Yugi nodded. “What can I do then?”
Atem tilted his head, gaze thoughtful. “Just being near is enough.” He said softly.
“I can do that.” Yugi reached across the table, taking Atem’s hands into his. He brushed a thumb over the knuckles slowly, Atem humming in response.
“Want to take the car for a spin? I’ll drive.” Yugi grinned. Atem raised an eyebrow, expression sceptical.
“You’re banned from vehicles mister.” Atem waggled a finger in his direction. Yugi ducked his head, laughing.
“True, but hey, I cheered you up anyway.” Yugi winked, and Atem’s eyes widened.
“I… guess you did.” He admitted.
“Come on, I’ll help you water all the plants.” Yugi said, pushing out of the chair.
“I can handle them alone, you know. There aren’t that many.” Atem reminded him gently, rising to follow.
“Yeah, but if I let you do all the work, then there’s nothing for me to do, and I’m tired of lying around. Either you let me water, or I’m taking the car.”
“Well as your caretaker, I suppose I had best indulge you in this then.” Atem said, all serious like.
“You are not my caretaker, quit making me sound so old!” Yugi laughed, pushing Atem lightly.
“Soon he might need a retirement village.” Atem continued, pretending to be deep in thought, finger on his chin. “We might need to say our farewells, old friend.”
“I will lock you in here and water those plants myself if you don’t leave me alone.” Yugi threatened.
“I’d find a way out easily.”
“I could board up all the windows.”
“You wouldn’t be fast enough, I’d already be out.”
“What if I knocked you out first?”
“You would be equally knocked out, our strength levels are quite similar.”
“You flatterer, we both know you have more muscle mass than me.” Yugi stuck his tongue out childishly.
“Here I am trying to compliment you and you refuse to accept them, what does it take to give you praise?” Atem shook his head in mock hurt.
“A lot of persisting usually. Call Anzu if you want some tips.” Yugi chuckled.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Atem nodded, smiling. “So the plants?”
“Oh, right, of course,” Yugi laughed, slinging an arm around Atem’s shoulder. “Let’s go water some thirsty plants!”
And that's the end! Thank you for reading! If you've read this all here, I'm probs still updating it on AO3 and it's not done there yet. Feel free to leave a comment telling me what u thought of the fic! Or hit me up on tumblr, url ashethehedgehog and tell me there, feedback is always rly nice to get.
Here is the AO3 version, if you would like to leave comments and/or kudos and the like over there! Thank you!