Purgatory -- 1/???
Kaiba called it Purgatory.
When he rode up to the station the first time, Yuugi assumed the name came from the feeling that hit him when he first sat down in that chair and looked out of the glass windows all around them and saw nothing but black, twinkling sky above, and swirling blue-green-white-everything below. Sitting there in that unbelievable station, on the edge of earth and space, between everything and nothing… it really was like floating between two worlds.
But he was wrong.
He realized that only later, though.
After Kaiba told him to stop gawking and get to work.
After Yuugi handed over his first-try-codes and the hologram sphere that should have appeared between their chairs exploded across the observation deck in a scrambled mess of light, proving the translation from Yuugi’s own system to Kaiba’s tech wouldn’t so smooth after all.
After hours and days and weeks of gritting his teeth through Kaiba’s impatient snapping and ignoring him in favor of Mokuba’s advice, buzzing constantly in his ear through the game station’s speakers.
After he thought to ask in passing, three-fourths of his mind focused on finding patience, why Kaiba had created this station in the first place, since Mokuba said it had been in operation a good four years before he and Yuugi started talks about a celestial expansion of Spherium.
Kaiba had stopped typing, eyed him across the game table… and finally, after a long stretch of nothing, looked back at his screen, talking to numbers in place of his face. “It doesn’t matter what it was meant for before. Now, it’s just a compromise.”
Yuugi blinked, distraction turned to focus as he echoed, “A… compromise?”
“Yes. He found out the risks I was taking to get there, and refused to duel me anymore. To ‘encourage’ me. But he agreed to come if I could get him here.”
“It’s easier to get ‘stuck’ on his end than ours, apparently,” Mokuba supplied, but the explanation made no more sense to Yuugi’s ear, even as his heart pounded its understanding, undermining the dazed question he finally managed.
“His… he who?”
Kaiba gave a subtle sniff, told him to play the idiot, and pressed some button.
“Say hi for me!” Mokuba called, just before the line cut off and a golden light flashed before Yuugi’s eyes.
When he finally managed to open them again, recover his vision, he found… they were still right where they had started. Still in the Spherium room, Kaiba sitting before him.
But when Yuugi noticed the changing the lighting around him, and looked down… his throat closed up, and all he could do was stare. Stare at the world floating beneath the space station… the vast desert spread out in all directions, a single wide river snaking around to cut across the scene.
And there, just below them, a city… a palace…
All of it hazy, coming apart at the edges in… in broken, black pieces. Dissolving even as he looked.
Dissolving in a way Yuugi remembered well.
“Kaiba-kun…” he breathed, barely daring to even breathe enough to manage the name. “You didn’t…”
Didn’t what? Didn’t possibly? Didn’t dare? Didn’t actually…
…But even as Yuugi tried to form the questions, he heard how foolish they were. How blind to the man he was speaking to.
And Kaiba must have appreciated his circumspection, because he didn’t call or imply him a fool again. Just rose from his seat and made for the door, never looking back at him. “He’ll have seen the station. If he’s in a mood to come up, he’ll meet us in the duel room.”
Yuugi watched him go… his body frozen in his chair by the overload of questions speeding through his head. What had Kaiba done? How had he done this? How… how long had this been a thing? How often did he even do this? Had… had he been doing this since… since then? The last time that… that Yuugi saw…
…How could he have not known?
He wasn’t sure how long he sat there, alone, everything silent and unmoving save for the slow disintegration of the golden world below him… but eventually, Yuugi stood.
He didn’t even have to know the way. The space station’s hallway was large, but straightforward. Simple to map out.
And he could hear them.
“–easier to show him than to waste time explaining.”
“You… you didn’t even ask him first?!”
He coughed on his own breath, tripped on nothing as the silver of the hall around him gleamed and blurred on a dime because that voice was–
“–have to complain about? I told you the risks are minimal this way.”
“That’s not the point! If he wanted to come that is one thing, but you didn’t even–”
…Logically, the shock should have paralyzed him. Left Yuugi standing there, frozen in the hall, drinking in that voice until… until something interrupted him, because it didn’t matter how long he had to process this, it would never make sense, and he would never be able to grasp it.
But that wasn’t how it worked.
That voice… it had stopped because Yuugi hadn’t stopped. He had moved without even knowing it, drawn in by the sound, until… until he saw the owner.
There, standing beyond Kaiba, in the middle of another minimal room of sleek silver and bright lights, utterly at odds with the reality around him, and dissolving to black even as Yuugi stared… but real.
Real, and there, and looking back. Staring right back at him… the same devastated wreck of overwhelmed emotions Yuugi felt crashing through those familiar crimson eyes as he… as he whispered to him.
Not with words, not anywhere Yuugi could hear him, but… but still Yuugi heard it. His name, that name, whispered not by a mouth or a mind, but there all the same– in his memories, and Atem’s eyes.
It didn’t matter how many years passed… Yuugi heard it because he remembered exactly how it should sound, and read that truth in that single, never broken glance.
And he didn’t know what he might be saying back with his silence, as Kaiba abruptly turned about and brushed right past him, tossing intentions over his shoulder about getting some work done if they were going to be so slow about this… but finally, Yuugi found the will to break the silence stretching out between them with a quiet, “Mokuba-kun told me to tell you he said hi.”
And Atem blinked, the film of astonishment clearing just a little from his eyes… and slowly, he smiled. A small, amused, easy thing that made Yuugi’s heart tumble over itself as he said, “Tell him I say hi, too.”
And Yuugi nodded… incapable of doing anything, save reflecting that smile right back.