Notes: I hope these two came out alright. I rewrote some things several times to try to get the right voice for them. It's been a while since I've written for Alister, and I've never tried Orichalcos Mai before. And I still like Mai, by the way, though it's no secret that she was seriously mixed up during Doom Arc, courtesy of Yami Marik.

#16. Gynophobia; Fear of Women (sugar and spice and everything nice)

He was leaning against a pillar of the temple, his arms crossed, his coat billowing around him. His honey-tinted sunglasses slipped partway down his nose as he looked toward the sound of the footsteps. Even before he saw the owner of said footsteps, her identity was obvious. No one else in the temple made such a clicking sound with her boots.

And there she was---Mai Valentine, wearing one of those purple and black outfits that seriously challenged the lines of decency. Her shorts went about as high as humanly possible without being nonexistent altogether. And her top covered what she was endowed with---just barely---and little else.

The Orichalcos choker around her neck seemed out of place. After all, she was so concerned about fashion, wouldn't she think the turquoise would clash with her outfit? Or maybe by now she was so caught up in thoughts of gaining power that she did not care.

Her expression bore her cold determination. She wanted to be the best, just like Valon. Maybe that was why she did not like him. Maybe she thought he would only get in her way. It would not surprise him. Valon should just give up already.

Not that he cared what Valon did. They each had their own separate goals, after all. Valon's near-obsession with her would not interfere with Alister's plans of destroying Seto Kaiba. Or it should not, anyway.

She did not seem to notice him leaning there, watching her. In retrospect, maybe he should have just let her go by. But for some reason, he decided instead to speak.

"Did you do it?"

She froze, turning narrowed violet eyes to the hidden gray orbs. "Of course I did it," she answered, her voice sharp as a knife. "Did you think I wouldn't?" In anger she brushed a stray lock of blonde hair over her shoulder. Something must have gone wrong. Not that she was not always in a bad mood, but right now it was worse than usual. She looked like she wanted to take a bite out of metal.

If the old nursery rhyme was true, about females being made of "sugar and spice and everything nice", she was more spice than anything else at the moment. And though he had heard that in the past she had used her sugar on men, she had never used it here. She was always so full of anger and hate . . . and pain, underneath it all. None of the members would have joined an organization such as Doom without a certain amount of pain. But as far as Mai Valentine containing "everything nice" . . . well, that all depended on one's perspective of "nice."

He had often played with fire in his life, though this interest had mostly come about after his brother's death. And he always had his own reasons for getting into someone's mind and tinkering with what made them tick. He never did it just to make them squirm and be on edge. It was what he planned to do with Kaiba. To start with, it would only be words and simple actions. Then, gradually, it would grow worse.

Of course, he had very little interest in this woman. Making her life Hell would be pointless. But that did not mean that he did not wonder if she was useful to the organization. He still thought Dartz had made a mistake by allowing her admittance. Her cutting tone should have been a warning to back down, but instead he gave her a calm look. "I thought maybe you couldn't," he said.

Her eyes flamed. "Are you calling me soft?" she spat, stepping closer to him. Her hands flew to her hips. She looked ferocious as she stood in front of him, demanding a response. Some men would be scared off by this tigress. Some would just be amused.

Alister was neither. But he did raise an eyebrow at the red-violet color that sparked in her eyes. That only happened when the wearer of the Orichalcos became particularly incensed. It confirmed his suspicions that something had not gone according to plan when she had gone on her first major mission. Not just anyone could eliminate Pegasus. Had she needed help to get the job done? Valon had gone with her, to monitor her success as well as to be around in case she needed a more experienced duelist to bail her out of a tight spot.

Not that it really mattered, as long as the assignment had been completed.

"I wondered," he said. "Especially since you dropped out of the world of professional dueling to join us."

The rage only increased. When she spoke, her voice was taut and dangerous. "They weren't enough of a challenge," she said. "I wanted something bigger. Something better."

"And you think you've found it?" He glanced at the stone hanging from her neck. "Only the best can be Orichalcos duelists."

She glowered. "I was the best!" she retorted.

"Until people like Yugi Muto and Joey Wheeler came along and stole your glory?" He continued to regard her in total calm. "I've heard you used to cheat to win, by spraying perfumes on your cards. If that's true, then you deserved to lose. You can't expect to get far in this life if you don't have any confidence in yourself."

"I don't have to prove myself to you!" she retorted, half-turning to leave. "You're nothing to me."

He looked after her, his expression never changing. "If you think your talents are worthy of us, then why not duel me?" He held up his left arm in emphasis. The duel disk was in place, ready to be activated.

She glared over her shoulder. If she could, she looked as though she wanted to melt the device with her eyes. "If you're so worried about it, why don't you come and watch me duel?" she shot back. "I didn't see you leaping to follow me to San Francisco."

"That's because I don't hang on your every word and action," he retorted.

Her lip curled, but it was not clear whether it was in repulsion of Alister or of Valon. She turned again, her hair swishing out with the motion. The conversation was over, as far as she was concerned.

Gray eyes watched her departing form until she turned the corner. Even afterward, the clicking of her heels on the floor could still be heard, fading into the distance.