Disclaimer: If I owned Yu-gi-oh, Mai/Jou would be even more canon than it already is.

This is a contest entry for the Mai/Jou livejournal group polarhearts so if you're on lj, please join, enter the contest, and support the pairing! Thank you.

Also, this is manga-verse. Hence no Doom Arc. 'Bonkotsu' is what Kaiba calls Joey in the Japanese anime, it approximately means good-for-nothing.

Jounouchi was raised in New York because I say he was.

YGOYGOYGOYGOYGOYGO

Jounouchi actually could write neatly. When he was excited, which was a lot of the time, it degenerated into a nearly illegible scrawl, but a lot of the time Mai was pretty sure the scrawl was deliberate, like English-speakers learning to write messily in cursive to scrawl signatures that will be harder to forge.

Mai thinks he writes that way because it's just the way he writes. It was a bit of a shock, when she got the first letter he ever sent her and it was in painstakingly neat kanji. Each one perfectly formed, probably the exact way it was in the textbooks he learned it out of.

No one wrote that neatly. Everyone does have an individual style, a messiness adapted from the signs teachers taught them, an ancient language adapted by every user for modern use. Fast scribbles and scrawls to get the message across.

It had been so neat if it hadn't been on notebook paper she would have wondered if it was a printed page. The ink hadn't even gotten smudged.

She'd written normally in reply. And she could almost hear his pen's sigh of relief when the next letter was in what she had known was his normal handwriting.

It had been cute. A lot of things Jounouchi did were things Mai thought were cute.

Quite often annoying as hell, but cute.

Quite often heroic to the point of suicidal, but romantic.

The language of the letter had been as formal as the script.

It had boiled down to, "are you okay?" The phrasing had been annoyingly convoluted: she'd had to read 2 sentences to get what could have been said with just those three words.

But then, he was a boy, and he couldn't be all gooey. People would laugh, like Mai'd laughed so hard her stomach had almost hurt, reading the message of a street punk trying to be a professor, a boy trying to be a man, a bonkotsu trying to be someone Kujaku Mai would be interested in in a million years.

Mai had needed that laugh. And she'd ended up giggling, smiling like the fool Jounouchi Katsuya most certainly was.

A sweet fool, though.

A fool who Mai was right on the verge of forgiving for lying to her and saying he hadn't seen her in that vision.

A fool Mai wrote back to, in her normal handwriting, which seemed unnecessarily curly and girly now that Mai looked at it. Definitely a feminine handwriting. It was almost like you could tell what she was like, looking at her handwriting. The corset and the bare skin and the Prima Donna air she carefully cultivated. Mai Valentine took second place to nobody.

The thought had made her grin as she wrote the letter. And a few days later she'd gotten one back, written on artificial papyrus Jounouchi had, the letter said, bought at Isis Ishtar's museum exhibit. She'd read the letter open-mouthed. And almost wrote back saying he should damn well have invited her, but she was the one who'd taken off after the tournament. Places to go, people to beat. She'd sat looking out the window of her hotel in New York and smiled, and had written to him on letterhead from the Plaza hotel in his old hometown.

His normal handwriting looked like he was chipping wood, Mai thought when she'd gotten the next letter back, in Osaka for yet another tournament. It had been forwarded to her by her mail service: she had all her mail sent to one address, only way to handle moving so much, and then sent on to her.

It was covered with stamps when she slid it out of the large brown envelope all her mail had been sent in.

Egypt.

This was real papyrus, Jounouchi explained in the letter. She could practically see his excitement on the page, in the kanji that were clearly written fast and hard, in the heat of the moment, so excited that he forgot to be formal, forgot to try to impress her. She could see where he'd pressed down on the papyrus, to hold it steady as he wrote: the ink was smudged there. Mai wondered if his hands had been sweating from the heat, the excitement, or both.

When Mai had started to read, her hands had gripped the paper tightly, her eyes had raced from sentence to sentence, the papers being shifted around in her hands to follow the story as they'd shifted in Jounouchi's hands writing them, and the writing was so vivid she'd felt almost like she had been there.

She'd written back as soon as she'd finished reading it, amazed and enthralled and depressed that she would never get to duel the true Pharaoh of Games. And Jounouchi's letter had arrived a week later (so fast… he must have also written on the instant), answering all her questions.

Now he was back in Domino, she'd set up an e-mail account for him, he could check it at the library.

But it just didn't feel the same, looking at those letters on the screen. When he'd written her back, claiming the e-mail was just too much hassle (even though postage to America cost money), she'd smiled and sprayed a bit of perfume on her letter back and enclosed a booklet of stamps.

She could almost see him try not to blush in the next letter, when he's sent payment for the stamps and an excited description of a tournament he and Yugi were going to enter. She'd been glad for Yugi, not having lost his touch, and she'd cheered for Jounouchi, watching the tournament on television instead of preparing for her own tournament.

She always loved getting letters from him. They were cute and funny and happy and exciting and reminded her of some of the best (certainly the craziest), days of her life. She loved that he took the time to write to her.

It wasn't until he sent her the deck case he'd had embroidered with a Harpie Lady and a Flame Swordsman and she read the inscription on the back that she realized she was in love with him.