A/N: I posted on my profile that I was taking JouMai requestfics, and got one from arashi_wolf_princess. That was way back in the middle of the summer, and I apologize for not posting this sooner. It's even a fic I've been wanting to write for a while--I've got two others in the same universe, after all--so I SHOULD have written it.
Aaagh, ANOTHER post-Doom-Mai-feels-guilty-and-doesn't-want-to-face-Jou Fic. I've got so many of these. The internet has so many of these. Why did I add another? At least it's JouMai. There is so little of it out there.
Disclaimer: If I could make money off this thing, believe me, I would. As I do not own it, that is impossible.
Mai did not want to answer the phone. But this was the third time in a row that it had rung, and no one wanted, let alone knew how, to call her far as she knew. Annoyed, and a touch anxious, she flipped it open, and snapped as way of a greeting, "How did you get this number?"
Kaiba Seto was no less rude as he answered, "You owe me a favor."
It took her several seconds to respond. Everything that happened was the opposite of anything she expected. "Kaiba?"
"Yes. And you're going to come duel for me." He didn't bother asking. He wouldn't have even if she HADN'T caused him a huge mess with the Doom organization incident.
"...Kaiba?" She was processing the first piece of information, never mind his demand for a duel.
He gritted his teeth. "Keep up, Kujaku, I'm busy."
With effort, she stopped questioning the fact that yes, she was on the phone with Kaiba Seto--what on earth, he'd never so much as spoken directly to her before--and went back to his demand. "You want me to duel? I don't duel."
"It's not a 'want'. You're dueling. Or else my Duel Academy students are going to riot."
Mai'd had some pretty strange conversations in her life--usually also about Duel Monsters--but this was quickly topping the list. "What does the Duel Academy have to do with this?"
"Dammit. I'll explain it ONCE. The students of Duel Academy were polled about which professional duelists they would like to see duel at the school if possible. Well, they're taking it quite literally, and now I need to get a duel ready. You were voted, I don't know why, but you were. So you come here, duel, get a check, go home. The plane ticket will be mailed shortly."
"Who am I dueling?" There were quite a few details Kaiba left out of his description, but that was the one Mai was most concerned with. Even if Doom was years past, she still would rather not run into any familiar faces.
"I can't tell you that."
Oh no. That was not acceptable. "No way. You tell me who."
"Don't take that tone with me, Kujaku. I don't want him dueling in my school anymore than you want to duel him."
"'Him'?" She blinked. She wasn't thinking of anyone specific.
"Jounouchi," Kaiba said. "He won't duel if I have anything to say about it."
Before she could protest, the line went dead. She pulled back from the receiver, staring at it.
She should have known.
When she really thought about it, though, it WAS Jounouchi that she wanted to avoid. There were all the others, Yuugi, Haga, Ryuzaki, the other Warriors, Otogi, Rebecca... but she could handle them. She was pretty sure she could. Armed with the promise of not having to duel Jounouchi and Kaiba's chartered plane ticket, she accepted the invitation. A few weeks and a short flight later, she was standing on the shores of Duel Academy.
"Hey there!" Someone too cheerful to be the elder Kaiba shouted. She looked, and was greeted now by the younger of the brothers.
"Mokuba." Oh no. He was on the list of "people that knew about Doom that she would rather never speak to again." "...Hello."
"You ready?" he beamed. Mai was stunned for a moment, but recovered, and nodded. He led her to the building where she would duel, chatting happily all the while. He was entirely too cheerful to still care about Doom. Inwardly, she sighed. That was a close one.
To the building they went, and an impressive structure it was. Mai looked at the obelisks--haha, very subtle, Kaiba--and the primary colors adorning the roofs. Without prompiting, Mokuba explained the rankings of the classes: Osiris at the bottom, Ra, then Obelisk. Mai rolled her eyes and could have laughed. No, subtlety wasn't Kaiba's strong suit.
A line of students stretched around the building, waiting to get their seats for the duel. Mai's eyes widened--she was dueling now? As in right now? Mokuba took her around to a side entrance to avoid the eager audience.
"So," he announced when he'd led her inside to what could only be described as a locker room. A locker room for duelists. It was the most ridiculous thing she'd ever seen. "Go ahead and get ready. We'll be starting within the hour. Someone'll come to get you. Good luck!"
"Wait!" She'd had Kaiba's word, but she was still worried. "Who am I dueling?"
"Can't tell you that," Mokuba grinned. "It's part of the fun."
Mai wasn't in the mood to joke around about this, though. "No, Mokuba, I'm not..." she didn't want to come straight out and say "I won't duel Jounouchi"... but then again, at this point... "I'm not dueling Jounouchi."
He shrugged, not giving any hints in his expression. "You'll see when you get out there. I suppose you can forfeit if you don't like the opponent, but the students might riot."
That was the second time she'd heard the threat of a student riot. What kind of school was Kaiba running, that it was so imminent any time she did something? Before she could say more, Mokuba slipped out of the room. She sighed.
She really should have known.
Nearly an hour later, she'd gone through her deck and side-deck a dozen times, and at last, someone entereted the room.
"Ready?" the elder Kaiba asked. She stood up quickly, feeling as though she ought to in his presence. It was the first time he'd seen her since she'd been trying to destroy the world. Although the by the time he actually saw her, she'd been outduled by Raphael. She never encountered Kaiba during the whole Doom incident, but he knew well enough what she'd done. She stared at him, not sure what to say.
"I'm sorry," she came out finally. He scoffed.
"For what? The incident with Dartz? Please. We handled you people easily. Especially you, you were just pining for Jounouchi from what I heard, turned on the rest of your group once he'd been stupid and got himself half-killed. Again." He didn't hold back, he gave it to her straight what happened with Doom.
"It's been over for years. So stop worrying about it, get out there, and duel."
She hadn't expected such comfort from Kaiba. In his own harsh way, he'd just told her that he knew what she did, but it was okay, and he'd never tell anyone.
"Thanks," she smiled for the first time on this trip. He turned around, now facing the door.
"Don't thank me yet." He held up a hand to the door. She started towards it.
"I... didn't have anything to say about it," he said through gritted teeth. Mai had already pulled the handle, but she whirled around to Kaiba, who had the closest to an apologetic look he could have on an expressionless face. The door, opened, flew open, and she was exposed to the students of Duel Academy. Their cheering doubled. She shouldn't have heard anything over the noise, but his voice cut through, soft as it was.
She still faced Kaiba. He nodded, and she winced. No, no, dammit, no. He called again, louder, and she turned.