Sora yo dakishimete

Summary: Because there are no words to describe how cool Mai Kujaku really is…

A/N. Mai has always been my favorite YGO character, right next to Seto Kaiba. She's self-assured and totally kick ass. She's not one of those helpless feminine types; she can take care of herself, and when she gets into trouble, she really gets into trouble.

This is somewhat based on her duel with Yami Mariku, in which she almost dies (Jou saves her, Yami Yuugi saves Jou, it's ADORABLE!)

Anyways. I'm not sure if I'll continue this. It ends conclusively enough to be a one-shot; but it's trying to give me ideas for a continuation.

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I used to think that, if I was strong enough, that I could conquer anything. I used to think that if I was steadfast and stubborn-as-hell, I wouldn't need anyone to look after me.

And as much as I hate to admit it, I'm pretty sure I'm wrong. Oh, I'm not positive, not yet, but God…if this is what it's like to have a schoolgirl crush, kill me before it gets any worse.

Not that it can get worse, I suppose. You kinda…clinched my affections when you saved my life. Or, rather, when you were willing to save my life, it was actually Yuugi who did all the saving. But still, the fact that you were willing to dive in front of me to take that blast from Ra…God, Jounouchi, you stupid bastard, it would have killed you. I have never been more angry with a single human being than I was at you right then. If my arms hadn't of been…occupied, I would have strangled you.

The only logic I could muster up was that I was gonna die in your arms. And then, wherever we ended up, I could kick your ass there. Because I swear—that was the stupidest thing anyone has ever done. And that's including the time Yuugi was willing to die just to get me back those stupid star chips.

But, then again, I guess the company you keep defines your personality, huh? I guess that's why I would *prefer* to keep my own, because that way, no one knows enough about me to formulate an opinion, or at least one that isn't based on my 'Money! Boys! Clothes!' gig.

And then, you went and pulled a stunt like that—

I swear, Jounouchi, I swear—

Well, we came out of it alive. Yuugi's other half was a little worse for wear, but as selfish as it sounds…I'm just glad you weren't hurt. Mind, the look on your face when he took that hit—God, that was enough to want to break down and cry…or rewind time and knock you BOTH unconscious before you had the opportunity to go 'Oh! Damsel in distress, must save her!'

Guys are stupid.

Actually, that was the exact thought flitting through my mind at that precise moment. "Oh God, they really do think with their dicks,". It was…inappropriate, for the circumstances, but I've always been one to tell it how it is. But then…that wouldn't explain why Yuugi saved you, Jounouchi.

You've always been unusually close. Despite the fact I know you're straight, I've never been able to tell with him. Girls like me have a radar for these sorts of things, we can sense homosexuality a mile away, and while I'm pretty sure Yuugi himself is straight (He likes that Anzu chick, gah it's so obvious you might as well paint it on his forehead), but…then again, all 'Yami no Yuugi' talks about is Jounouchi. Jounouchi this, and Jounouchi that, and Jounouchi's in trouble, gotta save him!

Sometimes I wonder if he'd like to be more than friends with you, that darker half of Yuugi. Sometimes I know he does. Sometimes I'm glad that you like me.

I mean, yeah, sure, it's selfish. I'm denying his chance at happiness because *I* want you, but…eh, aren't girls supposed to be like that? …I guess, though, if push came to shove, and you ended up being gay, and liking him back, I wouldn't interfere. I—I don't think I could, Jounouchi, because you mean *that* much to me.

You didn't at first, though. Heh. Imagine that. I saw you as a pubescent, annoying little kid, trying and failing to be a good duelist. But you've come a long way since then. You really have. But then again, with that initial assumption, I didn't expect to have to add 'Honorable as hell' and 'Selfless' to that list. I did though, in a *very* small print. Small because I was ready to scratch them off at a moments notice, 'cause most guys aren't like that. I'd know, I've been around.

But, Jou? You're everything and more. You're like, the epitome of what I could have ever wanted in a fairy-tale knight, only I never liked fairy tales. I always thought they were so unrealistic, and that surely, no one like that could ever exist. But then I found a knight right in my back pocket. Or, at least, I'm sure that's where you'd like to be.

Oh sure, you're younger than me. Oh sure, you can be a little annoying, oh sure, you act like an idiot at times, but God…I've realized something. I just don't care.

There are still times when I want to bash your head in with a mallet, though. Stubborn bastard that you are. God what I wouldn't have given to kick you where it counts when you were standing in front of me like that—

I didn't want to die, heh, I'm too beautiful to die, but I swear, if you had of taken that Direct Damage hit for me I would have had zero sympathy for you. But…I guess luck watches out for fools and children. Sad but true, and although it almost killed your best friend—

I blame myself, mostly. I blame myself for getting into that position. I should have known better. And then, of course, I was stupid enough to summon Ra. I thought I could control it, I thought I could master it. But nooooooo, no one told me you had to know the incantation to use it to the full potential. And then, of course, that bastard darker half of Mariku took it back and, yeah; you know the rest of the story. (But seriously, 5400 attack points?!)

And then you decided that I needed saving, and you were ready to die for me. That look in your eyes—I'll never forget it. I swear. If I didn't know better, I'd say you weren't…well, yourself, actually. I mean, it was like you were possessed. That fire—

I seriously thought I was staring at the good ol' Grim Reaper himself. That's just how much it freaked me out. And then it faded and you put your arms on the wall on either side of me to brace yourself for the hit you knew would kill you. We were so close that if I had of been allowed more mobility, I might have kissed you. And then you closed your eyes, then, and I remember thinking (after the previous thought. Heh) that would be the last time I'd get to look at you, and I hadn't even told you that I had a mad-as-rabies crush on you.

You knew, though, I think. On some subliminal, 'guys only' level, that I liked you as much as you liked me. That was why you were willing to do what you did, Jou, that's why. And even though it was Yuugi who paid…even though you were at his side the moment he was stretched out on the ground—

Damn you, you annoying little brat. You've done this to me on purpose, haven't you?

Some snide little corner of my mind is telling me that your crush on me is probably purely materialistic, that you really are gay and on some plane of 'love' with Yuugi's darker half, but damnit, you're my knight, you're supposed to love *me*.

And I'm not entirely sure you don't…it's odd, y'see, it really is. I know Yuugi (we're talking normal Yuugi, here) told you he loved you. Although, I'm still having trouble deciding whether he meant it *that* way or not. I mean, it was open to interpretation.

Anyways. Let's talk about something else, shall we? The 'Yuugi/Anzu/Yami/Jounouchi/Mai' scenario is really starting to go to my head.

So what. You're looking at me funny. Am I supposed to open the damned box?

Well, my name is stenciled on the top. I didn't know you even knew when my birthday was, you sneaky little rat. It's not like I ever told you, and now this…! You're really making me feel bad, springing this sort of thing on me, because I know for a fact I missed your birthday. And you're still staring.

This is the point where I want to get up, strangle you, and scream 'STOP LOOKING AT ME!', just because you're making me uncomfortable as hell. I mean, sure, I have no problem with guys eyeing me, because I know I'm good-looking, but hell, when you do it, it's more like you're searching for my soul, not just my 'front'. And I hate that. I hate feeling vulnerable. So stop it.

"Are—are you going to open it, or what, Mai?"

I blinked. The box wriggled, I swear it wriggled. I put my hands on top of it to keep it in my lap. There are two things that wriggle in boxes, pagers set to vibrate and kittens, which vibrate anyways. Little fuzz balls of doom, they are. Doom.

"Jounouchi…" I managed finally, berating myself for the semi-squeaky state of my voice. You've talked to him a billion times, Mai Kujaku, come on, buck up. "You didn't have to get me anything," I finished lamely. I winced. Coming from someone who generated a materialistic front without having to fake it, that sounded really, really bad. Maybe it was a battery-powered blender that I could stick my head in, while I'm at it.

You cracked a smile, swiping your hair away from your face. "Aa, yeah I did. Jus' open it already,"

God you're eager. It's almost like you're the one opening the present. Or maybe you've had too much caffeine-powered cola for breakfast. I wouldn't put it past you; I've watched you go on a 'pop-drinking-marathon' and down like, thirty of the things in an hour.

I tugged half-heartedly on the ribbon, still feeling guilty as hell for forgetting your birthday—and, I mean, I call guys stupid. Well, admittedly, most are. But you're better than that, damnit; you deserve someone who isn't going senile at nineteen. Eh…well, okay, fine, twenty.  God that seems old. I had expected to rule the world at twenty, what the hell happened?

The present mewled, interrupting my contemplations of world-domination.

Kitten. Definitely a kitten. Well, at least you hadn't gotten me flowers. Last guy that did that got a fist to the nose. Stereotypical that he would have gotten me flowers, I hate stereotypes.

And don't you dare call me a hypocrite.

I poked at the box again. You looked like you were gonna tear it out of my hands and open it yourself. I snickered at the thought and your head jerked up. You almost looked hurt.

"Sorry," I said quickly, putting an assuring hand on your shoulder. "Just thinking."

You were really looking desperate. It's the way people look when they're on a road-trip, really have to go to the bathroom, and know there isn't one for a couple hundred miles. Poor Jounouchi—

"I just don't want to tear the paper," I offered up as an excuse. "The paper's so pretty and—"

The desperation faded slightly, and you managed a tight smile. "It was cheap," you said quickly. "It's not worth saving,"

I shot you a reproving glare that was only semi-faked. You do this all the time around me, I swear, it's like a defense mechanism. Constantly putting yourself down for some stupid, boyish reason. And you do it all the time! I mean, when we went on that date, and I said you looked good in the borrowed duds, you made some excuse about how there was no way you could measure up to how good I looked, and you shouldn't even be hanging around with me anyways.

I could have hit you then, too. I should have hit you. It seems to me I want to do this a lot…that can't be too good, eh?

Okay. So I decided to tear the paper. Well, actually, it wasn't intentional, but damnit, that scotch-tape is annoying to work around. So it tore.

The box itself was easier to open, because you hadn't taped it down, and sure enough, there was a fuzzy, purring fluff ball of doom. (Why do I have such a thing against cats, you ask? Bad childhood incident, and besides, I prefer puppies. If you know what I mean, naa?). Carefully, I lifted it out of the box, and set the latter on the floor, the former in my lap. It kept mewling and I felt the sharp little claws dig into my jeans and from there to my leg. My smile became fixed.

And then, you look at me, all hopeful and anxious (just like a puppy, Jounouchi,) and my smile grew sincere again. "It's gorgeous," I assure you happily, taking another look at it. Sure enough, it deserved the title. It was an off-white color, with a dark gray shade around its ears and face, three dark paws, and one that was pure white.

Ah—hold on, since when were kittens gold?

I reached for the scruff of its neck, pushed aside the thick fur (and man, this little bugger would never get cold!) and lo and behold, I was right. There was something gold around its neck.

Well, the shimmer that I had saw was a ribbon, however, the thing attached to it wasn't, in fact, it wasn't gold, but a cool silver. I pull the ribbon off and set the kitten at my feet at the same time.

Oh boy. Now I really want to hit you.

"It's a birthstone ring," you say quickly, leaning forwards, "See, mine's garnet and yours is topaz…" you indicated the amber hues of my birthstone, the larger one. It was ringed with garnet, your birthstone.

I've handled a lot of jewelry in my life, Jounouchi; this is no ten cent trinket. I should strangle you. I really should.

I began to ask you what it had cost. I almost did, but I decided that would be the most insulting thing I could say to you in a moment like this.

"I didn't know your ring size," you said apologetically. "But I figured this had to be close…" you looked up. "And…ah, you can always take it back if you don't like it, I saved the receipt…"

I glared. "You, Jounouchi, are easily the most aggravating person I know."

You blink, confused. "I said you can take it back," you said quietly, upon which point I reached out, latched onto that damnable green jacket and hauled you closer.

"You're an idiot." I berate gently. "A real idiot. Jounouchi, it's perfect."

"Really?" You choke out hopefully. I sighed. You are a real piece of work—

"Yes, really, silly." I pushed you away to sit on your end of the couch, looking stunned, and slip it on my middle finger. It's a smidgeon too big, probably a six and a half where I'm a six, but it wouldn't exactly fall off. "Seriously, Jounouchi, you're so…" I hesitated to say stupid, but decided to show the other shoe at the fan. "Stupid." I finished, watching your eyes. They didn't flash at the insult like they sometimes could. "How could you think I wouldn't like this?"

I picked the kitten up and held it on my lap with a stern mental message of 'Dig your claws into me, fluff ball, you will find yourself in mortal peril.' It seemed to get the point, because it curled up, yawned just enough to show its little pink tongue and purred.

"Well, I mean, you're used to having better," you begin softly, and I have a serious urge to shut you up any way I can. "I didn't know if—"

I know how to make people be quiet. Women, you tell them they've gained weight. Men that you hate, you insult the length of their treasured 'manhood'. Men you do like, you kiss them. So that's what I did. It would have been one of those fairy-tale moments, if you hadn't of panicked at the last minute and turned the wrong way, bashing our noses painfully together. I yelped, you yelped, and the kitten ended up on the floor in a yowling little mass of fluff. (So technically, the kitten yelped too)

"Oh God, Mai, I'm sorry!" You jumped to your feet, ready to fling another mess of insults at yourself. "I'm so stupid, oh God, are you okay?"

I waved you away from me with a wry smile. And here I thought Yuugi was the innocent of the group. Here Jounouchi didn't even know how to kiss a girl—

"Of course," I said firmly, after making sure my nose wasn't about to fall off my face. "You didn't hit me hard enough to do any damage." You flushed at that; so red that you would have blended in perfectly with the racy little teddy hanging in my closet.

"I'm sorry," you mumbled again, eyes a little blank. You were probably in the process of giving yourself a very stern mental telling-off, something along the lines of the classic 'Oh my GOD, I am SUCH a fucking IDIOT!' speech. I smiled.

"Wasn't your fault," I responded, absently twirling my newly-acquired ring. "Calm down,"

"But that—"

"Jounouchi," I said in warning, standing as well. You never used to be this tall, damnit. What, the boy gets two years older and just has to grow like, five inches? What was wrong with you when you was 5'8?! Okay, I'm exaggerating. You're not that tall, probably about…oh, what…I'm 5'7…yeah, you're about 5'11. Or maybe 6', if you're lucky.

Still. You're making me feel less intimidating. Quit it.

I stepped forwards, remembering to make sure I didn't accidentally land on the kitten of doom (It is actually a ball again, probably sleeping. Must be a male, 'cause no female would take falling on the floor so lightly) and twisted my fingers into your jacket. "Care to try that again, Jou?"

And you flush deeper. Man, I didn't know it was possible to get so red. And then you step backwards, mumbling like an idiot. I follow, grab you forcibly, and kiss you. I'll be damned if you were getting out of this one. And oh God you're an innocent. Well, maybe not innocent, as you're probably not a virgin…but…

Heh, maybe it's my perfume. What does the slogan/label thingie say? Something about turning men to Jell-O?

When we separated, you were a relatively normal color, until of course I looked at you again. And POOF, someone sprinkles you with fairy dust, turning you an impossible shade of crimson. How interesting, Jounouchi.

"Happy birthday, Mai," you squeak, sounding more like a chipmunk on crack than your normal self. I paused, mentally giving odds to a chipmunk being able to talk on crack, sniggered in my mind and smiled at you.

"Thanks for the gift, Jounouchi, it really means a lot…"

You're looking all hopeful again. I swear I'm amazed you don't start barking at me, as cute as that would be.

"It was nothing,"

RRRRR! You STUBBORN--! Why can't you just admit that--!

I'm twitching. Internally, mind, but I'm still twitching.

"Pretty damn nice 'nothing', Jounouchi," I said sarcastically (Oh I hate the sarcasm, makes for bad press), lifting an eyebrow at the same time. Inquisitive, perhaps, or maybe just to accompany that uncalled-for bout of cynicism.

"Ah, yeah, well—"

I smiled in somewhat coy manner and dropped back into the couch, picking up the snoring cat as I did so. It suddenly became an alert fuzz ball and decided that my hand didn't have enough scars. It quickly remedied that, leaving bloody tracks across the back of my hand. It didn't hurt, thankfully, they move so fast you can't feel 'em, but I know for a fact I'm allergic to cat scratches. Time for the peroxide.

You're looking worried again as you pry the kitten off my lap and bring it to your chest (What you gonna do, Jou, crush the thing?) and hold it there with one hand, the other one catching onto me as I stand. "Oh God," you're looking at the blood on my hand like you're about to faint. And I swear, if you apologize one more—

Too late.

"Sorry, Mai!"

I had to restrain myself. No, really, I did. I seriously wanted to throw something at you. Like, oh, I don't know, a piano.

"The cat was what scratched me, Jou, not you,"

"Yeah but—" Ah yes, with the ever infamous 'Yeah buts'.

I sighed, pursing my lips. "It's okay, really,"

You don't look convinced. Oh yeah, Jounouchi, really, I'm going to get gangrene and die because a cat scratched me. I can see the epitaph now. "Here lies Kujaku Mai, I don't know why she had to die, scratched by a cat in the prime of her life, who knew a scratch could cause so much strife?"

I bit my tongue to keep from laughing and wandered out of my living room to my bathroom, and of course, you trail after me, still holding the cat, which, I'm happy to announce, has decided it likes you enough to not move. And do you ever look adorable holding it tucked under your chin like that. It's like, SO a Kodak®-moment! The puppy and the kitten—

The peroxide is usually kept on the third shelf of my vanity. But I'm not so bright, it seems (I blame it on the hair. I do something wrong, it's all 'I'm blonde, I'm blonde!) that I used it all and haven't bought a new bottle. Great, now I have to use alcohol. I hate alcohol, I really do. But I grin and bear it. And YOU, mister, are still looking nervous, dear God boy, take a Valium.

Or Ritalin.

"You sure you're okay?"

"Jou!" I half-shriek in agitation, I left the Dear God! I'm tempted to fake a stroke just to see what you'd do!  And instead continued with a much-toned down version. "Positive."

Oh yeah, so toned down.

"Oh. Good."

You're sighing in relief, absently scratching No-Name Cat under the chin. I should name it Jounouchi…I snorted at that, and dumped the third coat of alcohol on the hand. It didn't hurt this time.

Maybe I'll just call it Spazz. Or Paz, as in 'Topaz'.

"Huh?" You said, looking up from the doom-ball.

"Wha--? Oh, eh, sorry, thinking aloud."

"Spazz?" You say suspiciously, your fingers cease to pet the malleable, fuzzy—thing. 

"Cat-names," I explained, rinsing the alcohol off. I wouldn't bother bandaging it, wasn't big enough to worry about. But the allergies, the allergies…at least I wasn't sneezing hysterically. Yet.

Maybe I wouldn't, I mean, there are some species of cats that aren't hypoallergenic. And don't ask why, but an image of a needle with a cat-tail just flashed through my mind. What the HELL? I know I haven't been drinking—

I look up, into the mirror, more memories of that particular night resurfacing. Even then, you were in front of me. You had your head craned to one side, and I could tell you desperately wanted to pounce in front of Yami no Yuugi, to push him out of the way, to spare him that pain—but you stayed with me. You kept your left hand on my shoulder and your right hand on the tablet I was all trussed up on, and your head was bowed—

I never felt so utterly helpless as I had right then. But it's worked out, Jounouchi, it has. Yuugi survived, you survived, I survived, everything's perfect, right? Right?! Because you didn't die for me like you were going to. And those growls of pain that Yami no Yuugi was trying so hard to contain—

But we survived. We triumphed. It was painful, and not without sacrifice—

I looked away from the mirror, away from those eyes that have seen too much and at the same time, not enough. I'm close-minded as hell. In fact, the first time I'd changed my tune was when Yuugi proved that he would die for someone he cared about. He almost died for me, and that was just when we first met…

And then Yami no Yuugi had called Mariku a bastard—and Mariku had laughed at him. And he collapsed…and his back—oh God, his back—

"Mai? You okay?"

"Huh?" I looked up, catching your concerned reflection in the mirror. "Yeah, Jou, fine."

"You sure? You weirded out a moment," you gestured at my hands, clutching the edge of the vanity like it was the last purchase I had to reality. I forced my fingers into releasing it.

"Jounouchi," I said softly, turning so I was no longer looking at your reflection, but you…the real version.

"Yeah?"

"Thank you,"

"Huh? For what?"

I looked down. "For—that time—"

You looked down as well. Oh yeah, you remember. Of course you do. "Hey, don't mention it. I'd do it again, if I had to."

"Let's hope you never do."

Your eyes changed, bitter now, and I winced. "Let's hope Yuugi never does. He was the on that suffered, remember?" Oh dear. I know that tone. That usually means you're about to break into a tirade on your weaknesses and how he's always bringing pain and strife to the ones he loves.

Yada, yada, yada, yada. Jou if you start up like that—

"He survived…"

"Because of the puzzle."

"Yeah," I agreed softly. "Because of the puzzle…"

"Which," he pointed out. "Was the cause of that whole mess in the first place."

"Yeah, but Jounouchi, we won…"

"We almost didn't."

"But we did,"

You looked up. "I would never have forgiven myself,"

I winced at the undertones in his voice. It was one of those times I wasn't sure if he was talking about me, or Yuugi. Maybe it had a double meaning.

"Eh…" I tried to say jokingly. "It's over, anyways."

"Is it?"

"It should be,"

"But…even when we got rid of the Dark Bakura—you remember what he said, Mai?"

I am PURE DARKNESS! He had his Ouija Board card-thingie on the field, and was one letter away from spelling "DEATH", which would have ended the match for Yuugi. But Yuugi drew Osiris, and banished the bastard. As much as darkness can be banished, anyways. And Honda had carried the lighter half, Ryou; away…he had been knocked unconscious, almost killed by the final decree of Osiris.

I flinched at this new memory. "Yeah,"

"And…do you think pure darkness can be killed?"

I looked up at you, offered you a smile you didn't return, and started playing with my ring again. "I don't know, Jounouchi," I said hopelessly.

You put the kitten on the counter (the *counter* of all places!) and drew me close to you, as if I were a lifeline and you were a drowning man. "It won't happen," you say fiercely, nearly crushing me. "It won't happen to you, it won't happen to us."

I smiled against your chest. How protective you sound, Jounouchi—dare I imagine this is more than a crush?

You picked the kitten up and led me away from the bathroom, then, but Yami no Bakura's words still lingered, I am pure darkness!

I shivered; glad for your warmth and for your inexhaustible strength. You had saved me then, Jounouchi, and I know you'd save me again. Because that's just how you are.

I can only hope the need never surfaces again. Because it's all I can do. Because it's all anyone can do.

Because darkness can only be defeated by light, and there isn't enough light in all the world to banish that.

*

This fic rather scares me. The mood seriously changed near the end.

Oh, and I have it on good authority that Jou's birthday is in January and Mai's is in November, just so you don't want to yell at me "My 'Joey-kun's' birth-stone ISN'T garnet! It's 'blahblahblah'.