A character study about Mai and Seto. Supposedly, in the episode, it went straight from the group entering the castle to the Kaiba vs. Pegasus duel… but bear with me. A little bit of arrogantshipping, but only if you're looking for it. I know, I know, Shekiah doing something that's not silentshipping, but I've got to keep you guys on your toes. ;) I really love these two. Together, apart, whatever. By the way… I own nothing. ;)

This story underwent an EPIC overhaul, rewrite, editing session in May 2011 - so if it looks a little different, you know why! :)


"Somebody's thinking pretty hard," Mai observed wryly, walking up to the balcony where Seto Kaiba stood staring at the waves. He was somehow mesmerized by the way they crashed one after another onto the rocks below. He was probably paying too much attention to them - they were just like any other wave on any other beach in the world. But Seto knew, of course, that he was mostly trying to distract himself from his own anxiety. It had been a trying day - and it wasn't even close to over. By many counts, the real battle hadn't even started.

The newcomer to the balcony had caught him completely by surprise, and he flinched slightly at the interruption.

"Mai Kujaku, I presume?" he inquired, turning around to face her. His lips were pursed, making him look a little bit cold.

But he preferred it that way.

"Am I really that distinguishable?" Mai asked.

"Well, you certainly don't worry too much about fitting in with the competition. So, I suppose you are."

Mai snorted.

"Why would I want to 'fit in' with those losers?"

"That sums up my sentiment as well," Seto replied shortly.

Mai couldn't help but smile as she leaned back against the railing, a few feet away from Kaiba. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him run his fingers through his hair and kick around a little bit of gravel on the ground at his feet. Poor kid. He was shaking in his boots, but of course he'd rather just endure it than admit it and get a little bit of sympathy. She felt it her duty to break the awkward silence.

"So… you'll be the next one to duel the big guy, eh?"

Seto gave an unexpected chuckle.

"Big guy… that's exactly what he wants you to think. I've known Pegasus since long before he made it big with Duel Monsters – he was one of my first stock investors. Don't let him fool you. He's a overgrown child whose power went to his head."

"Sure you aren't a little bit overconfident?" Mai inquired softly. Seto narrowed his eyes, taking a step closer to her.

"I can own this duel… I'll beat him. Do you understand?" he asked, no more humor in his voice. "I've worked my way up here from square one, and let me tell you, I've stepped on a lot of people far more impressive than Pegasus Crawford."

Mai shrugged.

"No need to get all defensive or anything. I'm just saying he has to have some kind of skill to be in his position. Don't brush him off."

"Well I don't have to worry about brushing anybody off. He's hardly worth my time, and he knows it just as well as I do. You should know that too. So Kujaku... did you ever explain what exactly you're doing here? I don't recall having invited any company along."

"I was just going to wish you luck – but I'm afraid interacting with another human being is a little more than you can handle," Mai replied, raising an eyebrow. "You're a little high-strung, has anybody ever told you that?"

"I'm confident."

"Seems to me you're bitching to compensate for nervousness … but then again, I guess I'm a little biased where overconfident men are concerned. Whatever. If you're sure of yourself, that's what matters."

Seto narrowed his eyes, turning back around to face the beach. Getting an idea, Mai felt a smile creep across her face. She still felt a little bit bad for Seto, but he was just a little too much fun to mess with. She walked up behind him slowly. When she was sure that he had returned to his thoughts and spaced out again, she placed her hands lightly on his shoulders.

In an instant, Seto flipped around and gave her a look of surprised indignation.

"Now what are you doing?" he demanded.

Mai raised an eyebrow.

"Well, you see, among the normal, social beings, we often like to massage peoples' shoulders to help them get rid of tension before a big game or match or something."

"Well I'm not tense."

"Tell that to your shoulders, honey," Mai replied. "How do you not feel these knots?"

Seto sighed deeply and shrugged her hands away before turning around again.

"I just… I have a lot on the line here," he said softly.

"You don't have to make excuses to me. Hey, if I were you, I'd be shaking a little too," Mai replied. "But tell me… what exactly do you want with Pegasus? I mean, you easily have twice the cash he does, and what else could he have that you'd want? I guess this castle is cool and all, but your place certainly isn't shabby."

"He has my little brother," Seto replied bitterly. "Mokuba. Not a lot of people know that, though, so don't go and spread it around. It would look bad, and besides, I think it's what Pegasus wants. All the hype and the angst associated with harassing a celebrity. But it's not just a power struggle for me. Mokuba and I... we've stuck together for a long time."

Earlier on in the coversation, Mai had gone back to massaging Seto's shoulders, and he had given up his halfhearted attempts to stop her. However, hearing this last piece of news, she stopped abruptly.

"He kidnapped your brother?" she demanded, her voice rising a little.

"That's what I said."

"How is he getting away with this?" Mai demanded, now sounding indignant. "I was having a little trouble buying that whole story about Yugi's grandpa, but something like that happened to you, too?"

"Well, I don't know too much about that," Seto replied. "But yes, if they're both missing, we have Pegasus to blame. And that's why I have to go end this – one way or another."

Mai felt as though if she had blinked, she might have missed it – the way he quickly brushed his sleeve across his eyes. Somehow, her heart went out to him. It wasn't so much of an attracted-to-him kind of a thing, honestly. It was actually some kind of maternal feeling – had anybody ever hugged this kid and told him that he wasn't a bad person, the world wasn't out to get him, and he could probably kick its ass even if it was? Digging an airplane-size bottle of vodka out of her pocket, she handed it to him.

"Just… drink some of this. It'll calm you down a lot, and you'll be able to think straighter. It has a way of dulling things down a little."

Seto accepted it wordlessly, looking up at her with an expression of caution, but at the same time… intrigue.

"Just don't drink all of it," Mai cautioned. "I mean, it's not that much, but you're probably not the drinking kind. Not to mention, you're kind of a skinny guy."

Mai ventured a little of a laugh as Seto just placed the bottle in his briefcase. Afterward he turned to face her again; his features back to their usual hardness. Whatever unusual display of emotion that he had given into during their conversation seemed to be well over, and he was back to the conniving, eat-or-be-eaten CEO that he had been following his duel with Yugi hardly an hour before.

"I appreciate the sentiment, but I don't need any well-wishing, Mai Kujaku. I'll win this one on my own," he said, turning on his heel and walking towards the castle.

Mai shook her head. Despite herself, she couldn't help but root for him.

Just for a second.