Disclaimer: I don't own Yu-gi-oh.
Hmm… this is theoretically the last chapter. I might write more. It depends. I'm finishing up a lot of projects right now… Let me know if you want more of this or if you'd be more interested in a new project.
If you have ideas for what you'd like that new project to be, feel free to review and let me know.
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Jounouchi and Mai reclined on the poolside lounges.
Mai glanced over at 'Jou-chan,' who was keeping a watchful eye on Yugi. "You're so paranoid."
Jou grinned over at her and shrugged. Of course he was being paranoid. He was a bodyguard. Also, Yugi was a friend.
Not that Yugi couldn't take care of himself. Though Yami would have their kas if anything happened to him.
Mai stretched. "This is the life, hun."
Jou grinned at her again. "We're on top of the world, Mai. Room service, expensive clothes, now I know how Kaiba felt all the time."
Mai laughed. "Why do you think I wanted to be a duelist?"
"Because you loved the game and the Harpie Ladies."
"Besides that. Remember what I said about all the benefits at Duelist Kingdom? Cars, clothes, jewelry yadda yadda yadda? We're celebrities."
"The tabloids sure seem to think so." Jou grimaced.
"Still steamed about that one saying you were cheating on me with Anzu?" Mai laughed.
Jou glared. "They're going down."
"When the time comes." There might be security cameras here. She shrugged, watching Yugi swim around in the pool playing Marco Polo with Rebecca, Honda and Anzu.
Jou nodded. "Anzu was even madder."
Mai laughed, remembering. "She's such a sweet thing you forget she's got a bulldozer approach to things stupid enough to get in her way. My kind of girl."
"She's not the best duelist but she's a good organizer. Seth said she's coming in handy. She was Class Representative, you know, back when we went to high school instead of having tutors."
"She's got heart, don't forget. She did okay against me even though A. it was her first serious duel, and B. she was up against me."
"Only okay? After Yugi teaching her?" Jou shrugged. "You know how much better you've gotten. She's just not meant for dueling. Not that she's weak. She's got a great heart."
"I know." Mai stretched, the topaz ring on her finger catching the light. "We've been here a while. Want to put more sunscreen on me?" She winked.
"Sure." Jou grinned back and stood up to get the sunscreen, walking over and putting one knee up on the chaise lounge beside her as she rolled onto her back, stretching again.
"Mmm, it's warm. I love California. Pegasus has good taste, having Industrial Illusions' headquarters here."
Jou nodded, squeezing the lotion into his hands. "He's kinda crazy, but he's not dumb."
"Why Jou, calling one of the bosses crazy?"
"What? He won't mind. He likes to act crazy, it's the truth." Jou shrugged. "Not going to get in trouble for the truth."
Mai smiled. "You're right. They're all really great guys. Really rub it in, okay?" She yawned.
Jou rubbed it between his hands and began to spread the cool lotion all over her back. "Mmm," she sighed again.
Then he began to massage. Damn, he was good at this. Catch them young and trainable? It seemed to be working out really, really well.
She let her eyes close and drifted off a little. She'd been up late last night strategizing for the tournament Kaiba was throwing. The Kaiba Corp Grand Prix, he was calling it.
Everyone involved had already been recruited: while Yugi had worked on the Japanese duelists Pegasus and Dartz had recruited American and European.
The tournament was publicity, like Battle City had been. Although Kaiba was on their side now. Good thing too. He'd hired her to check out that virtual reality world to try to recruit her to his side. Seth had blown a gasket when she'd told him about what the board of directors had tried to do. There had been shadows swirling and she'd been worried for a second. Not that he would kill a messenger.
Seto had magic, way strong magic. He'd been fine.
But he'd had no luck at getting her to switch sides. Why would she? Everything she wanted was on this side. The game, the fame, the money, and Jou.
Yes, she liked things just the way they were. She stretched again. "How long until the tournament starts?"
"Right at noon, Mai. We've got about two more hours."
"Plenty of time. Mmm, right under my left shoulder blade?" His hand moved. "You're a doll, Jou-chan."
"Hey, I get to put my hands all over you without you slapping me. This is like a dream come true." He laughed. She loved his laugh.
"You were such a puppy back on the boat to Duelist Kingdom. The last person I would have expected to fall for. No, Rex was the last."
"What about the movie star?"
"You know I'd forgotten all about him. What, are you jealous? After all this time?" she teased him.
"No way! If he tries anything, I'll just beat him in a duel." She could tell he shrugged by the changing pressure of his hands.
"Damn right you can. I wouldn't date anyone weak, you know. So you'd better do well in this tournament, otherwise you're going to have to wait even longer."
He grumbled. "Not until we're married my ass."
"I might be robbing the cradle, but not that much, Jou." She laughed.
"And we're going to be busy the next few years, I know. Doesn't mean I have to like it."
"I'd be annoyed if you did like it. I should be irresistible."
"You're right you are." He kissed the back of her head.
"You're such a sweet punk. Get my legs?"
"Every inch of them, your highness." She heard him get more lotion.
"The tournament's taking place mostly outdoors, from what I heard. I wouldn't want to get too much sun."
"I don't think you're in danger of burning up, Mai."
"I'm trying to avoid tanning, Jou. I have no interest in getting skin cancer or age spots. 'If you want leather for skin, keep tanning your hide.' Anyways, if I had to get chemotherapy all my hair would fall out."
"Uh, Mai/ That's not something we need to worry about."
Yeah. Magic. Downing a red medicine would cure just about anything. "Still. Why are you complaining? You're benefiting from my paranoia."
Mana came into the pool area and headed for Yugi, then came over to them. "Seto's called a pre-tournament meeting. Someone wants to interview all the competitors to get sound bites right before the tournament. Could you be over in the tournament area in about an hour and fifteen minutes?"
Mai sighed and pushed herself up off of the lounge. "Sure, Mana."
"Why are you getting up? We've got time." Jou pouted.
"I haven't had breakfast yet, remember? Just a fruit bowl. I'll have to have lunch before the tournament."
"Now that you mention it, I'm hungry too. Want to have lunch together, Mai?"
"Well duh." She pat him on the head. "You can even pay."
"Hey, you're the one who should be paying me, your personal masseuse."
She kissed him hard.
When she broke the kiss, her swim suited body still pressed up against his, she asked him, "Does that cover it?"
"You bet." He looked a little dazed. So cute!
She kissed him again.
"Hey, get a room!" Honda yelled. Yugi giggled. Anzu whapped them.
"We have hotel rooms," Jou called back. "Don't blame me, she's the one who won't take advantage of them!"
Mai whapped him. "Come on, let's go change and head to the restaurant. And no, you can't watch me change."
Jou slumped, disappointed. "You sure?"
"Sure I'm sure. I wouldn't have said it if I wasn't." She patted him on the shoulder. "Better luck next time."
She changed into her lucky outfit. Same one from Duelist Kingdom, she practically had it trademarked.
Jou just tossed on jeans, a shirt and a jacket as usual, she saw when they met in the hall. He was also staring at her bodice.
She waved her hand in front of his face. "Lunch?"
"Oh, yeah, right." A sheepish smile. "Lead on, Mai."
She loved that he was so forceful and smooth on the dueling arena yet she reduced him to the kid he was. It was flattering that he got so flustered. She hated people being artificial around her, all suave. Or boorish.
She was dating Jou, he had every right to appraise her. Others suffered for it. Or, at least, their life points did.
They were seated and given menus. She noticed with amusement that they were way underdressed for this restaurant but no one said anything.
She lost Jou's attention for a few minutes while he read the menu. Bottomless pit. She wished she had his metabolism.
Still, magic used up a lot of energy, so now she could eat basically whatever she wanted. And she decided she wanted cheesecake for dessert and angel hair pasta with chicken and olives and the rest of this stuff right now.
When the server came to ask about their drinks they were ready to order. Mai got a martini, Jou a chocolate milkshake and the steak. A chocolate milkshake? At this kind of restaurant?
She swore, if she was somebody else or he was someone else she would be embarrassed to be seen with him. As it was, this was kind of fun. She always loved flouting conventions.
He was so cute. She just loved that about him.
She also loved his dueling, luck and skill and quick reactions, she loved his body, she loved… well, him.
Now the menus were taken away and he was smiling at her again. "What?" She asked.
"You look great."
"You mean I wasn't looking great before?"
"You know what I mean, Mai."
"Yes, but be more specific with the flattery." She gestured for him to go on.
"Your skin is glistening and you look really excited. Thinking about all the butt you're going to kick at the tournament, Mai?"
"Yeah, sure." She grinned. "They're going down."
"It's going to be tough, even if you only duel Yugi after you've already won," Jou cautioned her.
"So what? Seto's not dueling either. It's a bunch of international people. Leaders, all right, but so are we." The other generals were taking this opportunity to meet with Seth and report on what was happening in their areas of the world. Things were about happen.
Jou laughed. "I can't believe it, it was just a year ago I was just a young punk trying to make ends meet with part-time jobs and worrying about my sister."
"You're a great big brother." He would make a great father.
"I tried. If it weren't for Yugi…" He shrugged. "I really owe Yugi."
'Yugi's a doll." She smiled at him. "It was that great luck of yours." Her foot touched his under the table.
"Hey, I'm not all luck. Still, it was close. You know I stole a piece of the Puzzle right before he completed it? If I hadn't given it back…"
She felt a chill. If he hadn't given it back, none of this would have happened. She would have gone on, a shallow person, having never really reached the heart of the cards no matter how hard her Harpies tried to reach out to her.
She would never have met Jou, after all it was Yugi who got him interested in dueling.
She wouldn't be here. None of them would be here.
Everything had hinged on that one piece of the Puzzle.
Everything had hinged on Jou finding it and giving it back to Yugi. "Thank you," she said quietly to the center of her life. "Thank you."
He shrugged. "Don't mention it. It was just me being a jerk."
"Yugi said you were trying to help him be a man," she reminded him.
"Stupid way to do it." He shrugged again.
"Don't be too hard on yourself." She frowned at him.
He smiled. "Thanks, Mai."
"That's my job."
The food arrived and they ate.
Just a little thing, but everything had hinged on it. Because of that little piece, the world would change. Eternal peace.
So hard to believe. Too perfect to be true.
Just like Jou.