A/N: I had three other versions of this fic before I settled on this one. Of course I went with the weird, experimental style one. Oh, I hope this works.
Conquestshipping (Varon/Mai) for Computerfreak101's contest. As I am a devoted polarshipper, I would never voluntarily expose myself to a pairing that involves Mai but not Jounouchi. (and vice-versa) But I did enjoy writing this, difficult as it was, and I hope you enjoy it.
Disclaimer: Yuugiou doesn't belong to me.
Varon watched Mai and Jounouchi duel. He fingered his ring every time Mai lost the upper hand. After the first few turns, Jounouchi held nothing back, surprising everyone.
Varon clenched the railing as Mai fell to her knees. Jounouchi raised his hand to attack. His voice was breaking, but he called it anyway, and Mai was going to lose. Varon leapt down towards the duel, smashing his fist into the barrier.
Mai woke up in Varon's arms, hearing him argue with Raphael. He stopped talking and looked down at her. She pushed herself out of his embrace, falling back to the ground. He said her name and held out a hand, but she looked to Jounouchi, who was waking up as well. Varon put his hand on her shoulder as she knelt up. She put her hand on his, to brush it off, and touched his ring.
Images of fire, fighting, a nun, prison, the Orichalcos flooded through her. Varon wrenched his hand away, breathing heavily. Mai looked at him, but he scrambled away. Raphael was leaving, and Varon followed when Mai refused to go with them.
Jounouchi offered his hand, and was also refused. Mai went to her motorcycle, drove off, leaving him running after her. She drove for hours, but had nowhere to go. She came across the Hawkins' motor home, where Jounouchi and the rest had gone. Unsure, she stopped away from it, but close enough to be seen.
It was night when Jounouchi went out to talk to her. He said to his friends that he intended to bring her back with him. They watched from the trailer, anxious. The two of them talked for a long time. When they were done, Mai gave him her Orichalcos necklace. Jounouchi tried to get her to go inside with him, but she refused. He went back alone, and without his jacket. Mai was done with Doma, he told them, but didn't know beyond that. She spent the night outside with her bike, a denim coat wrapped around her.
Varon came with the morning. Mai woke and straddled her bike, ready to bolt. He circled, goggles over his eyes, offering power and magic. She said nothing. A cloud of dust kicked up as Varon skidded, halting inches from her. He pointed to the motor home. Did she leave Doom for them? She said nothing. Varon grew angry, looking at Jounouchi's coat. She had slid it on when Varon approached. The Warrior of Doom was jealous. Mai protested.
The door of the trailer flew open. Jounouchi raced out, calling for Yuugi. Varon smirked. Mai, knowing what the smirk meant, started to drive off. He caught her hand, pulled her back. His goggles were off, and he looked in her eyes, pleading with her. Mai was tempted to stay. After the memories she'd seen, she wanted to know his story. Under his calm demeanour, he was suffering. She wanted to help.
But not at the expense of innocent souls. Varon noticed her bare neck and let her hand slip through his grasp. Mai gunned the engine. Raphael was dueling Yuugi, and she knew where. Otogi had started his car by now, so Mai took off, the others following close behind.
She stayed on the fringe when they arrived at the duel. Varon appeared in the distance, but never approached them. When Raphael dropped Yuugi's soulless body into the arms of the three boys, she wondered if now Jounouchi knew some of her pain. Mai looked out to where Varon had been. Wondered if he knew her pain.
They regrouped at the trailer, their numbers cut by one. Anzu and Rebecca took it hard, and Jounouchi let his emotions show for once. Mai cringed. What if she had dueled Yuugi? The Orichalcos wasn't what she wanted, now she was sure of that. All she wanted was to escape her pain, not to inflict it on others. It had taken too long for her to realize she'd accomplished the wrong one.
Yuugi--well, not Yuugi, but they had nothing else to call him--hung in the back while they discussed their next move. Mai ventured into the trailer with them this time. The two of them stood together. He knew some of her pain now. Not the same pain, though. His pain was because of the Orichalcos. Her Orichalcos was because of her pain.
Yuugi was still distant on the train. Mai was more included than ever just by being with them. Jounouchi came to her after a while, and refused his coat when she tried to return it. They had talked through Doom the night before. Now awkward questions of old feelings hung over them. The train crashed, interuppting their lack of conversation.
Ryuzaki approached, challenging them with his newfound Orichalcos powers. Mai wanted to duel to make up for what she had already done. But the thought of losing the duel was too much to bear, and she hesitated. Jounouchi stepped forward instead. Mai couldn't help feel some empathy when Ryuzaki told them about his failure. His inability to win reminded Mai of her own disappointments with dueling. He knew some of her pain as well.
The Orichalcos took Ryuzaki's soul when he lost. Jounouchi recalled that his soul had been taken and restored once before, which surprised Mai. They continued on, taking Ryuzaki's soulless body with them.
There was little conversation while they walked. Honda was not as forgiving as Jounouchi. Mai knew she deserved it, though. She answered their questions about Doom, little that she knew, and asked none of her own.
Mai marveled at the power of Helmos when it flew to the aid of Kaiba's plane. She still hung back when the friends gathered. Kaiba said nothing when she boarded the helicopter, so she at least wasn't an enemy. More like the enemy of his enemy. Amelda had lost, so now there were only two Warriors left. What would she do when it was over?
He'd had plenty of time to speak with her alone, so it was ironic when Jounouchi sat down next to Mai on the crowded helicopter. He didn't ask anything of her, just told her about his duel with Malik. Mai listened in stunned silence. He'd been electrocuted, burned, attacked by a god, and nearly killed. He did know of her pain. Jounouchi knew more of her pain than anyone else had so far. But she turned away from him. He still didn't know it all. There was no one to understand her still.
When they touched down, Kaiba and Yuugi left for Kaiba Corp. Jounouchi wasn't speaking to Mai now, and went off on his own. Mai stayed where she was, thinking she was done with him. When Honda came back and told them he was fighting Varon, she took off without a word. The Orichalcos symbol lit up the sky a few minutes later, and she followed it.
They were nearly done with the duel when she arrived. Both were clad in armor and exhausted. Both smiled when she approached. She didn't want this. After all she'd seen the Orichalcos do, she didn't want it hurt anyone else. Mai reached for the stone around her neck, but it was gone, given to Jounouchi. He saw her do it, and nodded to her. She looked down, and remember his jacket. She was still wearing it. Her hand closed around the stone. Varon had done it once before. Mai charged the seal.
When she could see again, Mai crawled to Varon. Jounouchi was sitting up, so she knew he was fine. But Varon...
She squeezed his hand, and he groaned. The stone in his ring glowed green. Fire consuming an ornate building; young Varon screaming and fighting against the policemen holding him back...
He tried to pry her hand away, but she clung on, wanting to see every last bit of pain in his heart. Varon walking into a dark alley, slapping a length of pipe against his open palm. Five, six, more men looking down at him like he was crazy...
He knew what she had suffered through. He knew how horrible it was to be all alone; to not have anyone care about you; and then to have the only one who cared about you ripped away. Jail guards forcing Varon into a straitjacket, then taking him to the warden...
Varon finally wrenched his hand away from Mai, sat up, and smashed the ring into the ground. The stone shattered. The Orichalcos hadn't done anything for him, either. His pain was still there. The woman who cared for him was still dead, and it still hurt, and all the Orichalcos did was numb the pain, like a drug. It didn't heal it.
He looked at Mai, realizing what he had done. He had severed his ties to Doom with that stone. Cleansing the world never interested him much; all he wanted was his pain-numbing drug. Now it was gone, but he didn't care. Mai understood his pain. He knew that from the start, that was why he had found her. But he never realized how much he needed someone to undestand him. They looked at each other, and he put his arms around her. This time she let him. And for the first time in months and years, neither of them felt pain.