DISCLAIMER: I do not own Yu-Gi-OH GX or any of its components.

"You're really pathetic, do you know that?"

Zane Truesdale scowled. "Watch it, Phoenix."

"I mean, really. You're taking those…" Aster made a grand gesture towards the prescription pill bottle in Zane's hand. "…for an affliction you brought on yourself."

"Go the hell, Phoenix," the black dragon snarled.

"Phoenixes rise from the flames, remember?"

Zane stopped in his tracks. A peal of thunder from above rumbled the earth. The weather mirrored Zane's demeanor.

"You don't know anything about my condition."

"Oh, yes, I do. Chest pain, shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat," Aster ticked over the symptoms he had overheard Zane give the infirmary nurse. "Sounds to me that you're either headed for a hospital bed or an urn, buddy."

"I'm…fine." Zane's nostrils flared. "And, when did you start caring?"

"I don't," Aster assured him. "But, if you don't mind my asking, why do you deliberately have to shock yourself half to death each and every time you duel? Unless you have a thing for pain."

"Because it invigorates me. Maybe you should try it some time, Phoenix."

"No, thanks. I'd rather live to see forty," Aster shot back.

And, there it was. Two wits sharpened to deadly razor-edges that were especially designed to pierce through over-inflated egos and fragile emotions alike. Neither particularly liked or enjoyed each other's company, but sometimes, a quiet and distant respect was enough. Seeing as the two never saw eye to eye—now or ever—the conversation should have ended there. However, neither wanted to retreat until as much danger had been done as possible.

Plus, there was no one else around.

Aster cocked his head to the side. "You know, I don't get you, Zane. You had a brother that loved and admired you, a family that supported you, and friends that looked up to you. Yet, you threw it all away for your twisted sense of victory."

"Victory is what really matters, Phoenix," the black dragon literally spat out. "Don't delude yourself. My brother envied me because he was weak, and I was strong. My family never saw me. My friends abandoned me after I graduated. Winning is what's important, and that is one thing I will not lose." Those teal eyes narrowed into slits.

"Even at the cost of your own life?"

"At least my life will be worth living."

A pause.

"Zane…you're even more pathetic than I realized."

It didn't surprise the Phoenix very much at all when a pale fist came

hurtling towards his face. Naturally, he stepped aside to avoid the nasty collision.

"You missed."

"What the hell is it with you?" Zane's eyes were spitting emerald fire. "Why do you think your life so superior? Because you a silver spoon in your mouth from day one?"

"No. Because I didn't let my trail of wins define me."

Hastily, Aster backed away as the enraged dark figure charged towards him. He had teased the dragon, and now he was going to pay. Presumably. But, sometimes Fate sashayed in at the best possible moments. Right in the middle of Zane's angry charge, the older man gasped and squeezed at his chest.

Aster shifted from foot to foot. "Hey…are you okay?"

Great. I killed him.

"Just a twinge," Zane grunted.

"Yeah, right." Aster stepped forward.

At that moment, their gazes locked. The bitter enmity they shared still reigned supreme, but there was a certain kind of understanding as well.

"Wow, Zane. Your heart really is weak."

"Oh? You concerned now?" Zane's hand still remained on his chest.

"Not at all. A weak heart seems to be a chronic problem for you. It's just that now…it's a physical condition."

Leaving Zane in the secluded clearing, Aster left the black dragon to lick his wounds. The thunder was now incessantly crashing overhead, and Aster wanted to escape the rain.

Author's Note: I really have no idea what possessed me to write this. But, I secretly do enjoy writing Zane and Aster together. Officially, this does take place in Season 3. This is not a Zane bashing fic per se. It's based a bit on a personal experience I went through. Still, I expect at least one flame for this one!